WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday declined to say whether he still had confidence in U.S. Attorney General William Barr after the Department of Justice chief this week said there was no sign of major fraud in last month’s presidential election.
Barr told the Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday the department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said Barr had not searched for any evidence.
“Well he hasn’t done anything. So, he hasn’t looked,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “They haven’t looked very hard, which is a disappointment to be honest with you, because it’s massive fraud.”
Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden but has refused to concede and is fighting to overturn the results in court.
Trump’s legal team has accused Barr of failing to conduct a proper inquiry or audit voting machines, a task that does not fall to the Justice Department during an election.
Barr told the AP there had been confusion over the department’s role in U.S. elections, and that civil lawsuits like those being pursued by Trump’s campaign were the appropriate legal venue.
Asked if he still had confidence in Barr, Trump said: “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.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the president’s remarks.
A source familiar with the internal dynamics at the White House said Trump has been irked at Barr and talked about whether to replace him. The president’s term ends in January.
Barr has long been a staunch Trump ally, winning scorn from Democrats and many of the department’s own career prosecutors who have accused him of putting Trump’s personal interests ahead of the country’s interests.
Democratic President-elect Biden beat Trump by a wide margin in the state-by-state Electoral College, which determines the winner of U.S. presidential elections, taking 306 to 232 electoral votes as well as winning 6.8 million more of the national popular vote than Trump.
Despite that, Trump has continued to say without evidence that the election was marred by widespread fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal officials.
On Thursday he suggested, without evidence, that his team had enough votes to overturn the results in the key swing states that helped put Biden over the top.
“We found far more votes than we need in almost all of these states. And I think I can say in all of these states, far more votes than we need to win every one of them,” Trump said.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alistair Bell
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