A top federal prosecutor who issued a bizarre statement during the 2020 campaign that helped fuel President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud has announced his impending resignation.
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania David J. Freed, who was appointed by Trump in 2017, said Tuesday that he will resign his office at midnight on Jan. 1, just 19 days before Joe Biden is sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States.
Back in late September, Freed’s office released a statement offering up details of a preliminary investigation into nine discarded mail-in ballots in Luzerne County. The Justice Department typically keeps mum about ongoing investigations, particularly probes in their initial stages that could easily be politicized in the heat of an intense presidential campaign. But Freed’s statement actually specified that seven of the temporarily discarded military ballots were cast for Trump, and the president and the White House quickly pointed to the investigation as evidence that the election was being rigged against Trump.
Pennsylvania’s top elections official later said the election worker who initially tossed the military ballots — and was fired as a result — had made a mistake. But the voter fraud narrative quickly gained steam, and was seized upon as evidence of a massive criminal conspiracy against Trump.
Freed’s unusual conduct came under intense scrutiny from Justice Department veterans who noted it was “wildly improper” for a federal prosecutor to be making public declarations about investigations that could be used as a political cudgel and help undermine confidence in the electoral process.
HuffPost asked a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney on Tuesday whether Freed believed that Trump lost the election, whether Freed believed that Trump lost the state of Pennsylvania, whether Freed had any regrets about his statement on the mail-in ballots, whether Freed believes his statement helped fuel mass voter fraud conspiracy theories, and whether Freed’s announcement of his impending resignation amounted to a concession that Trump lost the 2020 election and that his mass voter fraud claims are bogus. Freed declined to comment.
Freed has remained mum on election fraud claims since Trump lost the presidential election to Biden in early November. Formerly a regular Twitter user, his only post-election tweet came on Veterans Day. Like many top Republicans, he remained silent on Trump’s increasingly unhinged claims about mass voter fraud, some of which were too bizarre even for notorious “birther” dentist-lawyer Orly Taitz.
Even after being swiftly brushed aside at the Supreme Court, Trump is now pushing for extreme action to overturn the will of the American people, and has called on his supporters to gather in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 when a joint session of Congress will meet to count the certificates of electoral votes.
In addition to thanking Trump, Freed’s statement on his resignation also thanked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who supported Freed’s nomination. Toomey has said there’s no evidence of Trump’s mass voter fraud claims, and called it “completely unacceptable” for Trump to pressure state lawmakers to overturn the results of the election. Toomey plans to serve out the remaining two years of his term but won’t be running for reelection in 2022, giving him more room to speak honestly about the outgoing president without fear of alienating Trump supporters who actually believe the president’s mass voter fraud conspiracy theories.
Justin Levitt, a former Justice Department official and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that Freed’s press release was “unforgivable,” but said in an email that it was a “good sign that the flurry of negative publicity seems to have dissuaded further abuses,” noting Freed’s silence in the past three months.
“He’s still got a black mark for running the only U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country (I believe) to have publicly indulged the President’s urge to promote half-baked investigations in the interest of stirring up the notion of controversy,” Levitt said. “But I’m thankful for the fact that it was just one bad act, rather than the first of a string.”