US justice dept finds no vote fraud, orders probe into ‘cash for pardon’ scheme
The US justice department had found no evidence of widespread voting fraud to change the outcome of the 2020 election, attorney general William Barr has said, in a big blow to President Donald Trump’s plans to overturn his defeat.
The department is also probing an alleged bribery scheme involving campaign donations to secure a presidential pardon, a court filing showed on Tuesday. The document is highly redacted, with all identifying information blacked out. But it refers to a “secret lobbying scheme” directed at “senior White House officials” to gain a presidential “pardon or reprieve of sentence” for an unnamed person. The probe comes days after Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The clean chit to elections from Barr, a Trump ally, was seen as a stunning repudiation of his boss’s efforts. Barr told the Associated Press that the department of justice prosecutors and FBI agents had followed up specific poll fraud complaints and information they had received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election”.
Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis hit back in a statement, saying “there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation” and that the lawyers had “gathered ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined”.
Barr also told the news agency he had named US attorney John Durham as Special Counsel to investigate origins of the Russia meddling probe into the 2016 election. As attorney general, a political appointee, he could have been easily removed by the Biden administration, but firing a special counsel can be messy.
Trump’s lies about election fraud are beginning to alarm Republicans. One Georgia election official angrily appealed to him to stop and condemn threats of violence against election officials by his supporters.
With his chances of staying in power dwindling, Trump indicated he may be considering another run in 2024. “It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years,” he told guests at a White House Christmas party, according to a CNN report.
The president has also threatened to veto the defence spending bill if it did not include a provision rescinding a law that shields social media platforms from liability for their content — Section 230. He and his allies have long complained of discrimination by Facebook, Twitter and others.
Seemingly undeterred by being fact-checked by his attorney general, Trump tweeted out a stream of TV clips of so-called witnesses speaking about election fraud at briefings and one legislative hearing that they claimed to have seen or experienced personally, which, have failed, once again, to withstand scrutiny in court.
President-elect Joe Biden, on the other hand, has continued to put together his administration publicly, unaffected by Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. He introduced his economic team comprising Janet Yellen and Neera Tanden, nominees for treasury secretary and director of the office of management and budget respectively, in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Let me be clear, with this team and the others who we will add in the weeks ahead, we will create a recovery for all and get this economy moving again,” Biden said while introducing his team. “We will create jobs, raise incomes, reduce drug prices, advance racial equity across the economy, and restore the backbone of this country — the middle class.”