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Four key ways Barr broke with Trump at the attorney general’s news conference



Two days before he leaves the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr offered his sharpest rebuke to date of President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations surrounding the election result, rejecting Trump’s efforts to act on the conspiracy theories the President has embraced to explain his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

Barr rejected the call for a special counsel to investigate claims of election fraud, while adding he saw “no basis” for the federal government to seize voting machines, a legally dubious step some of Trump’s allies have proposed in recent days.
The attorney general also rejected appointing a special counsel to investigate allegations against Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, which are currently being probed by federal prosecutors and IRS investigators. And Barr contradicted Trump’s disputing that Russia was likely the culprit in a massive cyber breach of US government systems, saying “it certainly appears to be the Russians.”
At the news conference held to announce new charges in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Barr put down a marker that could give his soon-to-be-acting successor, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, some political cover should Trump try to pressure Rosen or others at the Justice Department.
While Trump has been making false claims about the election for more than a month now, he appeared to take the effort a step further last week, hosting a meeting with lawyer Sidney Powell and her client, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had suggested Trump could invoke martial law. The meeting included a discussion of appointing Powell as a special counsel to investigate election fraud and an executive order to allow the federal government to inspect voting machines. Powell and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani returned to the White House on Monday afternoon.
Barr’s resignation, announced last week, was negotiated with Trump after the attorney general came under fire for saying there did not appear to be widespread fraud in the November election. Barr was attacked by Trump’s allies for pushing back on the baseless allegations surrounding the election that have been raised by Trump’s campaign and his allies and rejected over and over again in the courts.
It’s a remarkable position for Barr to be in after he was one of Trump’s most ardent defenders in the Cabinet, helping to push back against the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller and appointing a US attorney to investigate the origins of the FBI probe into Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Monday, Barr appeared to reject Trump’s efforts to break norms surrounding the election result. But he declined to engage on another norm Trump is flirting with challenging in his final days, declining to answer a question on whether Trump had the right to pardon himself.
Here’s where Barr publicly distanced himself from the President:

On a special counsel on the election: ‘I haven’t and I’m not going to’

After the election, the Justice Department announced it would investigate allegations of election fraud, but in a December 1 interview with the Associated Press, Barr pushed back on Trump’s baseless claims the election was stolen from him. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr said.
As the courts have rejected allegations of widespread fraud, Trump’s backers have pushed for a special counsel to keep probing the election, including the suggestion of naming Powell, who has focused her conspiracy theories on voting machines.
Barr said at Monday’s presser that there was “fraud, unfortunately, in most elections. I think we’re too tolerant of it.” But he said he stood by the finding that there was no systemic or broad-based fraud, which Trump refuses to admit.
“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was a right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t and I’m not going to,” Barr said.

‘No basis’ to seize voting machines either

Barr also rejected the notion that the US government should consider examining voting machines, which stems from a baseless conspiracy theory offered by Powell and Giuliani.
Giuliani had called Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official at the Department of Homeland Security performing the duties of the DHS deputy secretary, to ask if it was possible for DHS to seize voting machines, but Cuccinelli told him it wasn’t within DHS’ authority, CNN reported on Saturday.
Barr was clear in his position Monday.
“I see no basis for seizure of machines by the federal government,” he said.

No need for Hunter Biden special counsel

The news this month that Hunter Biden was under federal investigation — and the steps the Justice Department took before the election to follow proper protocol and not disclose the probe before the election — was one of the key factors that raised Trump’s ire toward Barr and led to his planned resignation.
“Why didn’t Bill Barr reveal the truth to the public, before the Election, about Hunter Biden,” Trump tweeted two days before he tweeted Barr’s resignation letter.
Since then, Trump has pushed for a special counsel to investigate the allegations against Hunter Biden, a question that could fall to Rosen, who is set to fill the top Justice Department job for the final month of Trump’s presidency and, potentially, until the Senate confirms Biden’s attorney general nominee.
Federal prosecutors in Delaware and IRS investigators are conducting the probe, which is focused on Hunter Biden’s financial dealings. He has not been charged with any crime, and his father is not implicated.
“To the extent there’s an investigation, I think it’s being handled responsibly and professionally currently within the department, and 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,” Barr said when asked about Hunter Biden.
Asked about the concern over what happens to the probe in the next administration, Barr said he was hopeful there wouldn’t be political interference. “I’m hoping the next administration handles that matter responsibly,” he said.

‘Certainly appears’ Russia responsible for hack

Trump contradicted his own officials, Republican and Democratic members of Congress and cybersecurity experts on Saturday when he publicly raised doubts on Twitter about whether Russia was responsible for the massive cyberattack on US federal government agencies.
Trump’s tweet, in which the President downplayed the significance of the hacking and suggested China could have been responsible instead, is only the latest instance where Trump has avoided condemning Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, however, Barr did not follow Trump’s lead, instead pointing to the comments last week from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had said Friday, “We can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
“I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment. It certainly appears to be the Russians, but I’m not going to discuss it beyond that,” Barr said.
The US has not yet formally attributed the hack to Russia, but US officials and lawmakers say there’s little doubt about who was behind the attack.
White House officials had drafted a statement assigning blame to Russia for the attack and were preparing to release it Friday afternoon but were told to stand down, CNN reported on Saturday.

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‘QAnon Shaman’ Jake Angeli charged over pro-Trump riots




A prominent follower of the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon has been charged over the US Capitol riots.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli, is in custody on charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Mr Chansley, who calls himself the QAnon Shaman, is allegedly the man pictured with a painted face, fur hat and horns inside Congress on Wednesday.

Donald Trump faces another impeachment charge for his role in the unrest.

Democrats accuse the president of encouraging the riots, in which five people died.

The FBI has been appealing to the public to help bring the assailants to justice.

Mr Chansley has not commented publicly on the charges.

A statement from the federal attorney for Washington DC said: “It is alleged that Chansley was identified as the man seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants.

“This individual carried a spear, approximately 6 feet in length, with an American flag tied just below the blade.”

The statement said police had also detained a man from Florida believed to have been photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern from the House of Representatives chamber.

Adam Johnson, 36, is being held on charges including one count of theft of government property and one count of violent entry.

Also among those charged is West Virginia lawmaker, Derrick Evans. He is alleged to have posted a video of himself online, standing outside the building with Trump supporters, and then going inside.

He was arrested on Friday and is also accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds, the Department of Justice statement said.

More than a dozen people have now been charged in offences related to the assault on the Capitol building. They include an Alabama man allegedly found with 11 Molotov cocktails near the unrest.

Mr Trump is due to leave office in 11 days. Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to introduce an article of impeachment against him on Monday, for “incitement of insurrection”.

A White House spokesperson said impeaching the president at this late stage would only further divide the country.

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US election: Trump tells Georgia election official to ‘find’ votes to overturn Biden win




US President Donald Trump has been recorded telling Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn the election result.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Mr Trump told Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a recording released by the Washington Post.

Mr Raffensperger is heard replying that Georgia’s results were correct.

Mr Biden won Georgia alongside other swing states, winning 306 electoral college votes to his Mr Trump’s 232.

Since the 3 November vote, Mr Trump has been alleging widespread electoral fraud without providing any evidence.

He tweeted on Sunday that Mr Raffensperger had not given details of the fraud the president alleges. “He has no clue!” the president tweeted.

All 50 states have certified the election result, some after recounts and legal appeals. So far, US courts have rejected 60 challenges to Mr Biden’s win.

Congress is due to formally approve the election result on 6 January.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, is due to be inaugurated as president on 20 January.

Voters in Georgia are due to vote again on Tuesday to elect two senators for the state. The result could determine the balance of power in the Senate – if the two Democrat contenders win, then there will be equal numbers of Republican and Democratic senators and Democratic Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will have the deciding vote.

Mr Biden’s Democrats already control the lower House of Representatives.

What happened during the call?

In the excerpts released by Washington Post, Mr Trump can be heard alternately cajoling and pressurising Georgia’s secretary of state.

He insisted that he had won the election in Georgia and told Mr Raffensperger that there was “nothing wrong with saying you have recalculated”.

Mr Raffensperger responded by saying: “The challenge you have Mr president is that the data you have is wrong.”

Later in the call Mr Trump said the rumour was that ballots had been shredded and voting machinery had been removed from Fulton County in the state – a charge Mr Raffensperger’s lawyer said it was not the case.

The president then threatened the official with possible legal consequences.

“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offence. You can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer,” Mr Trump said.

He told Mr Raffensperger he should re-examine the result in the state.

“You can re-examine it, but re-examine it with people who want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers,” he said.

“Mr President, you have people who submit information and we have our people that submit information and then it comes before the court and the court has to make a determination,” Mr Raffensperger replied. “We have to stand by our numbers, we believe our numbers are right.”


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Fact-checking Trump’s conspiracy theory connecting Georgia’s secretary of state to China




In the waning days of his presidency, Donald Trump continues to spread nonsense conspiracies over the 2020 election and the officials who oversaw it, attacking Georgia’s governor and secretary of state on Twitter Tuesday.

Following Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s announcement that a ballot signature match audit found no evidence of absentee voter fraud in Cobb County, Georgia, Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory linking Raffensperger to the Chinese government.
Trump tweeted that Raffensperger has a brother who “works for China,” insinuating some nefarious, pro-China plot to have Trump lose the race in Georgia.
“Now it turns out that Brad R’s brother works for China, and they definitely don’t want ‘Trump’. So disgusting!” the President tweeted after attacking Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Facts First: This is false. A spokesperson for Raffensperger told CNN that the secretary of state has no siblings who work for China, as Trump baselessly alleged.
“There are no relatives who work for China or are affiliated with China,” said Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.
Though it’s unclear exactly where Trump is getting the idea that Raffensperger’s brother works for China, it’s possible he is picking up on a false conspiracy theory spread by former political consultant Dick Morris, who made the allegation during an interview on Newsmax Tuesday evening and on his personal website.
In the interview, Morris leveled several false or misleading accusations against Raffensberger, including that Raffensperger is related to Ron Raffensperger, the chief technology officer of the Chinese company Huawei Enterprise Storage Solutions. Fuchs said that the secretary of state does not have a sibling named Ron.
Georgia Public Broadcasting reported Wednesday “public documents and records [show] that Raffensperger does have four siblings, including a brother, but none of them are named Ron, none work for Chinese technology companies.”
Morris also falsely accused Raffensperger of standing in the way of recounts and refusing to verify signatures. Georgia conducted a statewide audit, hand-counting about 5 million ballots and Raffensperger oversaw an additional recount. And in addition to the state’s existing signature verification process that occurs twice in the case of absentee ballots requested by mail, Raffensberger announced his office would help conduct a signature match audit statewide to further verify signatures on absentee ballots.
In a statement, Newsmax told CNN:
“Newsmax has never made any claim of impropriety by Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger or any member of his family. On Tuesday night, while appearing on the network, commentator Dick Morris claimed he was reporting on an allegation that Raffensperger had a brother who worked at a Chinese company. This claim was apparently inaccurate. During the segment the Newsmax host was highly skeptical of Mr. Morris’ claims and suggested there was no evidence behind Mr. Morris’ assertion, and specifically asked Mr. Morris to provide evidence of his claim.”
CNN has attempted to reach Morris for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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