By Lucia Leal
Washington, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- The tension between outgoing President Donald Trump and US Attorney General William Barr, whom he appointed, increased on Thursday amid rumors that the president could fire the AG after the latter announced earlier this week that he had found no evidence of electoral fraud that could have affected the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, which Democrat Joe Biden won.
Trump openly expressed his frustration with Barr in remarks to reporters at the White House two days after the top US law enforcement official broke with the president’s unfounded claim that massive election fraud was what caused him to lose to Biden.
Barr and the Justice Department haven’t “done anything. (Barr) hasn’t looked” for voter fraud, Trump declared at a White House event on Thursday, adding that Barr’s investigators “haven’t looked very hard,” either, “which is a disappointment, to be honest with you.”
When asked if he still has confidence in Barr, the president said only: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now. They should be looking at all of this fraud. This is not civil. He thought it was civil. This is not civil. This is criminal stuff. This is very bad, criminal stuff.”
Trump will leave office on Jan. 20.
The president reacted in this way to comments made by the attorney general in an interview on Tuesday, when he said that “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” thus directly contradicting Trump’s claims that the presidency had been stolen from him.
That remark reportedly infuriated Trump, who then held a tense meeting with Barr at the White House, CNN reported.
The president continues to be immersed in his claims of fraud despite the fact that all key states have already certified the voting results and Biden’s win is clear, but Barr’s statement obviously did not sit well with Trump.
Several of the president’s advisors are urging him not to fire the AG, but Trump has not ruled out doing so, according to The Washington Post and NBC News.
Trump usually summarily fires members of his Cabinet when he believes that their loyalty to him has diminished, but booting his attorney general would be especially controversial.
Historically, the Justice Department now headed by Barr has operated independent of the political leaders occupying the White House, and thus presidents have not typically been able to influence the department’s investigations.
But Barr, who has headed the department since February 2019, has been particularly loyal to Trump and he has not moved to blur the line between his presumably independent position and the president’s priorities.
His distancing from Trump in this case appears to be proof of the impossibility of defending the president’s insistence that fraud occurred in the election resulting in his loss, a complaint that has already been rejected by dozens of courts and for which he and his attorneys and other supporters have not provided any noteworthy evidence.
The relationship between Trump and Barr was already chilling before the AG made his remarks last Tuesday. According to The Post, the president had not spoken with Barr in months and was disturbed by what he perceived as a lack of progress on an investigation into the conduct of the FBI in the 2016 elections.
Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, lasted a year-and-a-half after Trump appeared to lose confidence in him before the president finally dumped him.
If Trump fires Barr, it’s unlikely that he will be able to get Senate confirmation for a successor who will obey his directives regarding election fraud in the mere eight weeks that remain before Biden is inaugurated.
Trump continues to rack up defeat after defeat in his court campaign to reverse the result of the election, and on Thursday the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out his team’s lawsuit aimed at nullifying the state’s certification of the election result there – a Biden victory.
But that did not prevent Trump from insisting, in his remarks to the press at the White House, that the elections were “rigged” and that that alleged scheme should be “criminally” examined.