Trump ‘detached from reality’ as he pursued claims of stolen election, says Bill Barr

Former attorney general describes former president’s claims of fraud as ‘bulls**t’, ‘nonsense’ and ‘crazy stuff’

Donald Trump had become “detached from reality” as he continued to promote claims that he lost the 2020 US presidential election due to fraud, his former attorney general said.

Bill Barr, who stepped down as attorney general in December 2020, said his opinion then and now was that the presidential election was not stolen by fraud.

The US Congress select committee into the January 6th attack on the Capitol also contended on Monday that the “big lie” about a stolen election was accompanied by “a big rip-off” as Mr Trump and his allies raised $250 million (€239 million) from small donors and then misled them over how the money would be spent.

The committee maintained that “small dollar donors” had received a barrage of emails – up to 25 per day – seeking money to “fight back” and to “step up to protect the integrity of the election” which was allegedly being undermined by a “left-wing mob”.

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The committee said that donors were urged to give money to the “official election defence fund”. Two Trump campaign aides testified to the committee that the so-called election defence fund promoted by the campaign did not exist and was merely a marketing tactic.

The committee stated that ultimately $250 million was raised with $100 million (€96 million) generated in the first week after the election. It said the money was used to create an entity called the Save United States political action committee (PAC).

The committee maintained that the Save United States PAC subsequently made contributions to the charity of Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s chief of staff; to a conservative organisation employing former Trump staffers, to the Trump Hotel Collection and to the company that organised the rally in Washington on January 6th, 2021, before the attack on the US Capitol.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said in a closing statement at Monday’s hearing: “We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. So not only was there the ‘big lie’, there was the ‘big rip-off’.”

In a video interview with the committee, Mr Barr described Mr Trump’s claims of fraud as “bulls**t”, “nonsense” and “crazy stuff”. He said the former president did not show an interest in what the actual facts were regarding the election.

Mr Barr said he had told Mr Trump that there was “zero basis” for arguing that the election voting system had been rigged to switch votes from him to his rival Joe Biden.

Mr Barr said a report that Mr Trump had been given regarding the Dominion voting machines “looked very amateurish”.

“I was somewhat demoralised because it showed that he has become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.”

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, in recorded testimony, said he advised Mr Trump on election night that it was too early to call who had won and that they needed to wait until early and mail-in ballots were counted.

He said Mr Trump objected to that advice, and claimed that night that he had won, calling the election a “fraud” and an “embarrassment”.

Mr Stepien told the committee that Mr Trump’s orbit had divided into “team crazy” vs “team normal”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent