Trump changed his story the following day, telling reporters that the story comes from “a firsthand account of a plane going from Washington to wherever,” though as Forbes previously reported, the claim appears to trace back to a viral, debunked Facebook post – boosted by believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory – from a man in Emmett, Idaho, in June.
White House spokesperson Sarah Matthews told Forbes on Tuesday that Trump was “referring to questions that need answers such as who may be funding travel and lodging for organized rioters” and pointed to a Fox News report about over 100 protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, having out-of-state addresses.
But Barr offered a more specific defense of Trump’s claim on Wednesday, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he “received numerous reports” of protesters from Portland, Seattle and elsewhere flying into D.C. “for the specific purpose of causing a riot.”
Asked about Trump’s specific claims – such as that protesters were clad in black uniforms and that planes were “loaded” – Barr said there were “many on planes,” before conceding, “I don’t know what the president was referring to.”
As with Matthews, Barr cited examples of “many reports of people going into Kenosha from several states,” adding that Trump “seemed to be talking in general terms.”
Barr also offered defenses of some of Trump’s other conspiratorial claims, particularly surrounding mail-in voting. Asked about Trump telling people to vote absentee and in-person to ensure their ballot is counted, Barr claimed Trump was “trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good,” adding “I don’t know what the law in the particular state says” when confronted with the fact that voting twice is illegal. Barr also claimed universal mail-in voting leads to “substantial fraud and coercion” despite several states, including deep-red Utah, implementing universal mail-in voting without widespread fraud. When confronted with that fact, Barr called mail-in voting “playing with fire.” Finally, Barr doubled down on his outlandish claim that foreign countries may manufacture mail-in ballots, saying he bases his concerns on “logic” but conceding he hasn’t seen any evidence.
Barr echoed Trump’s dismissals of systemic racism, particularly in police violence, and even went as far as defending Trump’s comparison of police shootings to playing golf. “I think what the president was saying there – and I think it's something that should be said and has to be said – in many of these shooting situations it's not because of race. It's because the officer is scared for their life,” Barr said.
Barr even went as far as defending Trump’s proposal to send federal law enforcement to polling places to prevent voter fraud, despite Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf saying his department lacks the authority to do that. Barr said such measures may be justified if “there was a specific investigative danger, if we detected some problem or risk."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Barr said he has seen “preliminary activity” about Russia attempting to interfere in the 2020 election, though he said he believes China – which has been found to favor a Biden victory – is mounting a more aggressive attempt, despite reports that the intelligence community doesn’t share that view. "I've seen the intelligence, that's what I've concluded," he said in defense of his belief, refusing to justify it further.