Former President Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows questioned the results of the 2020 election just one day after it took place, texting Atty. Gen. Bill Barr on Nov. 4 about looking into a fraud allegation, according to records released by the Justice Department.
The communications show how quickly Meadows moved to find evidence of fraud after it was evident Trump would lose the election, an effort that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection said in recent hearings was central to the former president’s plan to stay in power.
The late-night exchange began with a text message from Meadows to Barr.
“I don’t know how valid or who would be the best person to investigate but I thought you should be made aware of this. Tom Fitton tweeted it out and it is likely to get some attention,” Meadows wrote Barr at 10:44 p.m. Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a right-wing activist organization that has perpetuated unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.
The text was accompanied by a link to a tweet sent by far right provocateur James O’Keefe, which has since been deleted but can be found online, alleging that postal workers in Michigan were being ordered to backdate mail-in ballots so it would appear they arrived by election day.
Two minutes later, Barr replied: “Got it.”
The messages, which were included in records related to the 2020 election released by the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act, appear to be the earliest documented instances in which Meadows brought allegations of election fraud to Barr, an effort that would continue for weeks as the president, his legal team and his supporters pushed conspiracy theories in an attempt to change the outcome of the election. Trump, Meadows and others also pressured the Justice Department to get directly involved in ongoing lawsuits over election results and to issue blanket statements that fraud had occurred.
Barr said repeatedly after the election, including in a Dec. 1 interview with the Associated Press, that he did not find any evidence of widespread fraud in the election and that most of the allegations levied by Trump and those in his circle were related to individual instances and not a larger systemic problem.