Washington – Attorney General William B. Barr, as he delves into President Trump’s groundless accusations of widespread election irregularities, said he was allowed to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud before validating the results of the presidential race.
Mr. Barr’s mandate prompted the Justice Department official overseeing investigations into election fraud, Richard Pilger, to step down from the position within hours, according to an email that Mr. Pilger sent to colleagues obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Bar said that he permitted “specific cases” from investigation steps in some cases. He explained in prof Carefully crafted note Prosecutors have the authority to investigate, but cautioned that “allegations that are misleading, speculative, fanciful, or far-fetched should not be the basis for initiating federal investigations.”
Mr Barr’s directive ignored the Justice Department’s longstanding policies aimed at preventing law enforcement from influencing the election outcome. He followed that a step Weeks before the elections, the ministry lifted the ban on voter fraud investigations prior to the elections.
“Since voting in our current elections has now ended, I authorize you to pursue substantive allegations of voting irregularities and tabulation of votes prior to the approval of elections in your jurisdictions,” Mr. Barr wrote.
A Justice Department official said Mr. Barr has authorized the examination of allegations of ineligible voters in Nevada and of deferred mail ballots in Pennsylvania. Republicans have them Both allegations circulated In recent days, no evidence has emerged to support them.
The official said Mr. Barr did not write the memo at the direction of Mr. Trump, the White House, or any Republican lawmakers.
Mr. Bar particularly told ministry officials in the days following the election that any disputes must be resolved in court through the same campaigns, according to three people who have seen the conversations. People said he did not see major fraud, and that most allegations of voter fraud involved individual cases that did not indicate a larger systemic problem, people said.
But Mr. Barr’s critics immediately condemned the memo as a political act that undermined the Justice Department’s exemplary independence from the White House.
“It would be problematic enough if BARR reversed the Department of Justice directives from a long time ago due to substantial and proven allegations of misconduct – that could be dealt with at the local and state level” of the law, said Stephen I.
“But doing so in the absence of such evidence – and when the president’s clear strategy is to delegitimize proper election results – is one of the most problematic actions of any prosecutor in my life,” added Vladek.
Mr. Pilger, the professional prosecutor in the department of public integrity who oversaw investigations into voting fraud, told his colleagues that he would move into a non-supervisory role in corruption trials.
He wrote: “After learning about the new policy and its repercussions, I must unfortunately resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch.” A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Pilger’s letter.
Department of Justice policies prohibit federal prosecutors from taking public steps, such as questioning witnesses or securing subpoenas, to open a criminal investigation into any election-related matter even after voting results have been approved to prevent it from spreading into public opinion and influencing either of them. Voters or local election officials who ensure the integrity of the results.
“Public knowledge of the criminal investigation can influence the adjudication of electoral cases and appeals in state courts,” the Department of Justice’s election guidelines issued long ago to prosecutors say. Accordingly, the general policy of the department is not to conduct public investigations.
More covert investigative steps are permitted, such as the undercover investigator, but require permission from a public prosecutor in the ministry’s criminal department.
Mr Barr’s memo allows US attorneys to bypass the attorney general and take their requests to his office for approval, effectively weakening a key safeguard against political interference in elections by the ruling party.
Prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, warned that the warrant was unlikely to change the election outcome, but it could harm public confidence in the results. They said the public positions by the department gave Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, a tool to refuse to recognize Mr. Biden as the elected president.
Mr. McConnell and Mr. Barr met Monday afternoon. Representatives of the two offices declined to comment on what they discussed.
Mr Trump faces an uphill battle as he tries to alter the election results. Mr. Biden declared victory on Saturday after several news organizations declared him the winner based on the results of the scheduled elections.
“It’s not just about showing evidence of fraud, but irregularities will actually affect the outcome in several states,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist. “You’re talking about changing hundreds of thousands of votes.”
While Mr Trump’s campaign attorneys have filed more than a dozen legal challenges to results in battlefield states, none appears to be gaining traction in the courts. And none of them was likely to give the president an advantage in the votes he would need to change the outcome of the race.
The Department official said Justice Department investigators are looking into a referral from the Nevada Republican Party, which claims more than 3,000 people living outside the state voted in his election. The official did not say whether the ministry had opened a full investigation. A federal judge Reject the claim In court last week.
The official said the department is also reviewing an affidavit written by a postal worker in Erie, Pennsylvania, alleging that post office officials had put in place a plan to postpone mail ballots in the state.
Director of the local post office He denied the allegations He said that the accused had been punished several times in the past. This statement was sent to the department by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a close ally of the president.
In the days following the election, Mr. Barr faced pressure from Mr. Trump and his aides to intervene to help the president. Conservative commentators criticized Mr. Barr’s inaction, saying he was looking the other way.
Mr. Bar has been silent about voter fraud in recent weeks after previously issuing unfounded warnings of widespread fraud due to the large number of mail-in ballots in this election. Vote fraud is rare, and there were no significant cases of it in elections.
At the same time, the department made it easier for prosecutors to follow through on voter fraud cases and published details from investigations that generated headlines that helped Mr. Trump, prompting sharp criticism from Democrats and civil rights advocates.
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.