(CNN)Bill Barr is the top law enforcement official in the country. Which makes this exchange between the attorney general and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday very concerning:
Blitzer: You’ve said you were worried that a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots, thousands of fake ballots to people, and it might be impossible to detect. What are you basing that on?Barr: I’m basing that — as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m basing that on logic.Blitzer: Pardon?Barr: Logic.Read MoreBlitzer: But have you seen any evidence that a foreign country is trying to interfere in that way? Are you concerned –Barr: No, I’m saying people — no, I’m saying people are concerned about foreign influence, and if we use a ballot system with a system that some — that states are just now in trying to adopt, it does leave open the possibility of counterfeiting, counterfeiting ballots either by someone here or someone overseas.Blitzer: So you think a foreign country could do that?Barr: I think anyone can do that.Blitzer: Have you seen any evidence that they’re trying to do that?Barr: No, but most things can be counterfeited. That’s why we go through the trouble of counter — of making our money the way we make it.OK, so, here’s what Barr — again, the TOP law enforcement official in the country — is suggesting: Foreign countries could well send in “thousands” of fake mail-in ballots — thus compromising the 2020 presidential election. His reasoning is that it is easy to make a counterfeit mail-in ballot and that so many states are moving toward more absentee voting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. What proof does Barr have of these claims of “thousands” of counterfeit ballots being sent in by foreign powers? Oh, none. He admits it! Right here:Blitzer: Have you seen any evidence that they’re trying to do that?Barr: No, but most things can be counterfeited. That’s why we go through the trouble of counter — of making our money the way we make it.Er, that makes no sense. Because “most things can be counterfeited” does not stand in for proof — or anything close to proof — that a foreign actor is doing that. And that the United States goes out of their way to avoid money being counterfeited is, like, an interesting fact, but also totally irrelevant?Here’s the problem for Barr: He doesn’t have any evidence because there just isn’t any evidence of widespread voter fraud — organized by a foreign country or not — in mail-in balloting.According to one database of all types of election fraud, there have been 491 cases of reported absentee ballot fraud since 2000, which is an absolutely paltry number when you consider the number of elections and number of ballots cast over that time. A CNN review of data from a six primaries in the summer of 2020 found that the number of cases in which people requesting mail-in ballots didn’t receive them on time exceed the number of people casting more than one ballot.The truth is that, despite President Donald Trump’s aggressive efforts to suggest that there is evidence of widespread voter fraud in past elections, there just isn’t.A study done by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt tracked US elections from 2000 to 2014 in search of voter fraud, or, as he put it, “specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls.” Levitt found 31 examples of fraud out of more than 1 billion instances. A five-year study on voter fraud commissioned by President George W. Bush found, as The New York Times wrote at the time, “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.” In the last presidential election there were a total of four documented cases of voter fraud out of more than 135 million votes cast, according to The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
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There’s just no “there” there — no matter how hard Barr or Trump want there to be.None of the above means, of course, that foreign countries aren’t trying to meddle and interfere in the 2020 election. We know from US intelligence officials they are. And as The New York Times reported last month: “Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials said Friday in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help President Trump.”But guess what doesn’t help us in our fight to combat those interference efforts?A commander-in-chief who, standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland in 2018, said this when asked about Russian interference: “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”And an attorney general who, rather than addressing the very real threats to our election posed by foreign actors, chooses instead to focus on a theoretical scenario because he knows that it fits into how his boss sees the world.What Barr did on Wednesday is irresponsible. But more than that, it’s dangerous — because it suggests the Justice Department is more focused on following the President’s whims and conspiracy theories than doing the work of keeping our democracy safe from actual threats to it.