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Barr: 1st Amendment Won’t Save Trump from Election Charges

By Jake Beardslee · August 3, 2023

In brief…

  • Former AG Bill Barr said the First Amendment provides no protection for Donald Trump on charges that he conspired to overturn 2020 election.
  • Barr explained that free speech is not a defense against conspiracy or fraud.
  • Barr believes Trump knew that he lost the 2020 election but conspired to mislead the public.
  • The former AG said Trump has no one to blame but himself for his legal troubles.
Ex-Trump AG Bill Barr says the First Amendment won't protect his old boss from a guilty verdict on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.  Kevin McCarthy/Wikimedia

Former Attorney General Bill Barr said the First Amendment will not protect Donald Trump from federal criminal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election. Barr, who served as Trump’s AG from 2019-2020 before resigning, has been highly critical of Trump’s actions following the 2020 election.

Barr told CNN, “As the indictment says… they’re not attacking his First Amendment right. He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. He can even tell people that the election was stolen when he knew better. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. All conspiracies involve speech, and all fraud involves speech. So, free speech doesn’t give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.”

Barr dismissed Trump’s explanation that he was merely following professional legal advice, saying, “I don’t think that dog is going to hunt.” He added that Trump “would not listen to the lawyers in various departments of the White House who had those responsibilities, or [to] his campaign. He would search for a lawyer that would give him what he wanted.”

Barr believes Trump knew he lost the election, despite publicly claiming it was stolen.

“At first I wasn’t sure,” said Barr. “But I have come to believe that he knew well that he had lost the election.” Barr believes the prosecution led by Special Counsel Jack Smith likely has substantial evidence to establish that Trump, in fact, knew he had lost the contentious 2020 national election.

In the end, Barr said, Trump only has himself to blame. At the same time, he said, the former president continues to show little regard for the many other individuals, including maintenance staff at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, who are being harmed in the process.

“I don’t think this is an issue of his victimization. I think he brought this on himself,” said Barr.