AG Bill Barr's election deceptions go from bad to worse

Attorney General Bill Barr didn't have credibility to spare, which makes it all the more unfortunate that he keeps making matters worse for himself.
Image: William Barr
Attorney General William Barr appears before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 28, 2020.Matt McClain / The Washington Post via AP file
By Steve Benen

Attorney General William Barr sat down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer two weeks ago, and fielded a series of questions about voting access. It didn't go well: the Republican struggled with a question about whether North Carolinians can vote twice; he used deceptive rhetoric about Russian election interference; and he told a voter-fraud tale that was so ridiculous that even his own Justice Department had to concede it wasn't true.

Between this unfortunate display and the attorney general's penchant for peddling demonstrable falsehoods, common sense suggests Barr should probably exercise greater caution when discussing the elections.

And yet, Barr spoke to the Chicago Tribune's John Kass last week and just kept going.

"There's no more secret vote with mail-in vote. A secret vote prevents selling and buying votes. So now we're back in the business of selling and buying votes. Capricious distribution of ballots means (ballot) harvesting, undue influence, outright coercion, paying off a postman, here's a few hundred dollars, give me some of your ballots," the attorney general said.

This isn't just wrong; it's bizarre. The idea that postal balloting is an invasion of one's privacy has been fact-checked and discredited. The idea that "we're back in the business of selling and buying votes" is belied by the fact that several states have relied on mail-in voting for years without incident.

Indeed, let's not forget that many members of Team Trump have voted by mail -- including Bill Barr himself -- without any concerns about systemic corruption.

But it was especially bizarre to see the attorney general describe a made-up scenario in which nefarious forces pay bribes to U.S. Postal Service employees as part of an elaborate fraud scheme. For the nation's chief law-enforcement official to concoct and peddle such a tale -- without a shred of evidence or substantiation -- is as irresponsible as it is bonkers.

University of Kentucky law professor Josh Douglas, an expert in election law, described Barr's rhetoric as "wild, fanciful, and completely false lies," adding, "This is beyond unprofessional."

And yet, Barr couldn't seem to help himself. "Someone will say the president just won Nevada. 'Oh, wait a minute! We just discovered 100,000 ballots! Every vote will be counted!'" the Republican added in the interview with Kass, describing an imagined scenario. "Yeah, but we don't know where these freaking votes came from."

None of this reflects reality in any way. Barr is describing a corrupt dynamic that doesn't exist.

The attorney general proceeded to again take aim at Americans he doesn't like. "You know liberals project," Barr added. "All this bulls--- about how the president is going to stay in office and seize power? I've never heard of any of that crap. I mean, I'm the attorney general. I would think I would have heard about it. They are projecting. They are creating an incendiary situation where there will be loss of confidence in the vote."

Ah, yes, of course. As Donald Trump wages a months-long effort to undermine public confidence in his own country's electoral system, it's "liberals" who are trying to create a situation in which "there will be loss of confidence in the vote."

Barr didn't have credibility to spare, which makes it all the more unfortunate that he keeps making matters worse for himself.