Outgoing Attorney General William Barr said on Monday he would not appoint a special counsel to investigate President Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, which Barr himself had already dismissed.
“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool, I would name one,” Barr told reporters at a press conference called to announce new charges against a suspect in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
“But I haven’t and I’m not going to,” he added.
Barr, who is resigning effective Dec. 23, has spoken in public only a few times since the election. His decision to take questions at Monday’s news briefing, ostensibly on an unrelated subject, appears to be an effort to distance himself from reports that Trump is considering increasingly desperate efforts to overthrow the results of the Nov. 3 election.
Former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn has floated the idea of declaring martial law to rerun the election in four states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden. The idea of a special counsel was reportedly floated by Sidney Powell, a lawyer who has been an on-again, off-again member of the Trump campaign legal team.
Barr told the Associated Press earlier this month that the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr said at the time.
He reiterated that position Monday, saying, “I stand by that statement.”
Barr dismissed another idea, reportedly endorsed by Trump, that Homeland Security officials should seize voting machines.
The attorney general said he sees “no basis right now for seizing machines by the federal government.”
In yet another break with Trump, Barr said the Justice Department’s tax investigation of the president-elect’s son Hunter Biden is being handled responsibly and that he sees no reason or has any plan to appoint a special counsel for the case.
“To this point I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel, and I have no plan to do so before I leave,” he said.
Barr had resisted similar calls from Trump for a special counsel to probe the Bidens before the election. The president had repeatedly railed against his attorney general for failing to “lock up” Democrats for alleged crimes, including “spying” on his 2016 campaign.
Asked about the recent cyberattack that U.S. officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers, Barr said he agreed with that assessment, which was voiced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend.
“It certainly appears to be the Russians,” he said.
Barr’s announcement of charges against Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, a former Libyan intelligence agent, comes on the anniversary of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, en route from London to New York, which killed 270 people on the airplane and on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. The majority of the passengers were Americans, including a large number of Syracuse University students returning from a study-abroad semester.
Two other Libyan agents were tried by a Scottish court in 2000 for planting the bomb. One was convicted and imprisoned in the U.K.; the other was acquitted.
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