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Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Attorney General Bill Barr said the Justice Department always knew Trump's claims of election fraud were "bullsh*t," according to an excerpt from journalist Jonathan Karl's upcoming book published in the The Atlantic.

Why it matters: Barr's new comments come as Trump continues to propagate the lie that the 2020 election was "rigged." Republicans in swing states now are conducting "audits" of election ballots based on false conspiracies about the election.

Flashback: Last December, Barr told the AP: "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election."

  • That comment infuriated then-President Trump, Barr told the Atlantic. “How the f*ck could you do this to me? Why did you say it?” Trump asked Barr. Barr responded that he said it because it was true.
  • “You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump," Trump said, referring to himself in the 3rd person, according to Barr.

What they're saying: “My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told The Atlantic. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullsh*t.”

  • Barr said the department investigated a specific allegation, spread by Trump allies, that ballots were being wheeled into a central precinct in Wayne County, Mich., but found a simple explanation.
  • “In every other county, they count the ballots at the precinct, but in Wayne County, they bring them into one central counting place. So the boxes are coming in all night. The fact that boxes are coming in—well, that’s what they do.”
  • The department also looked into claims that machines were switching votes from Trump to Biden. "“We realized from the beginning it was just bullsh*t."
  • Barr also said that he told Trump the lawyers pursuing legal election fights were a "clown show."

Barr said that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been urging him to speak out against Trump's false claims since November but would not do so himself. McConnell did not want to upset Trump as he needed Trump to campaign in Georgia.

“Look, we need the president in Georgia,” McConnell said, according to Barr. “And so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it.”

Go deeper

Trump calls GOP Rep. Gonzalez a "sellout" in return to rally stage

Former President Trump during a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio, on Saturday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Trump called Rep. Anthony Gonzalez a "grandstanding RINO [Republican in name only]," as he advocated for GOP congressional challenger Max Miller, a former White House aide, at a rally in Wellington, Ohio, Saturday.

The big picture: In his first rally since leaving office, Trump said Gonzalez — one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him over January's U.S. Capitol riot — was a "sellout." He spent much of the rally complaining about his election loss and criticizing the Biden administration on policies including immigration. Trump again hinted at a 2024 run.

Go deeper: Trump seen as likely to run in 2024

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

Updated 5 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.