State and local officials are “playing with fire” if they rely on sending out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots for the November election, Attorney General Bill Barr said, without providing evidence that there’s a risk to a process long used in the U.S.
The nation’s top law enforcement officer weighed in on an issue frequently raised by President Donald Trump, who has said the election will be “rigged” against him if officials allow the broad use of mail-in ballots in response to health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s despite Trump having submitted vote-by-mail ballots previously, and states such as Oregon having a track record of conducting their elections solely by mail.
“We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that’s being proposed,” Barr said Wednesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “Now what we’re talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter list when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.”
“You think that’s a way to run a vote?” he added.
Barr doubled down on his assertion that foreign adversaries or other actors could make use of fake ballots, while acknowledging he doesn’t have any evidence that they’re doing so or planning to do so “because this is the first time we’ve tried such a thing.”
U.S. intelligence officials have said they haven’t seen any evidence that foreign adversaries are seeking to use counterfeit ballots.
Barr also said he believes China is more aggressive than Russia when it comes to trying to influence the U.S. It wasn’t clear, however, if he meant that China is more aggressive than Russia in trying to interfere in the upcoming election.
Barr also said he hasn’t spoken with Trump about deploying federal law enforcement officers to voting locations. He said such an action could only be done in response to a specific threat.
Barr addressed other hot-button issues in a wide-ranging and combative interview, including civil unrest over police killings of Black people. Barr said he doesn’t believe there is systemic racism in police forces, echoing Trump’s remarks that otherwise competent officers sometimes make bad decisions.
‘Half a Second’
“In many of these shooting situations it is not because of race, it’s because the officer is scared for his life and is in a situation where a half a second could mean the difference between his life and his death,” Barr said.
Asked about the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back as he was getting into a car after reports of a domestic dispute, Barr said Blake was “armed.” Blake’s shooting sparked more protests against systemic racism following a series of killings of Black people at the hands of police in recent months.
Wading into an allegation by the president that has been widely mocked, Barr also said he doesn’t know what Trump was referring to when he said there were large numbers of “thugs” on a plane traveling to or from Washington, D.C., to cause havoc.
However, Barr said law enforcement agencies are aware of “people who are flying around the country” to go to protests and are tracking some of the purchases they are making of items that could be used as weapons.
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