A former Republican-appointed top federal prosecutor says that President Donald Trump’s wild and unsubstantiated claims of mass voter fraud are a “fantasy” that make clear he’s lashing out while in a state of despair over Vice President Joe Biden’s impending victory.
“As somebody who has been a registered Republican for virtually his entire adult life, I can tell you it smells of desperation,” former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told HuffPost. “It appears to me he’s grasping at straws, and straws will not resuscitate this.”
Iglesias is a self-described former “true believer” in the idea that voter fraud is a problem in the United States. As the top federal prosecutor in New Mexico, he formed a task force to examine allegations of voter fraud but was then pushed out of the Justice Department in 2006 as part of a politically motivated effort targeting federal prosecutors who didn’t bring the voter fraud cases the George W. Bush administration wanted to see.
Iglesias agrees with experts and others who have fruitlessly searched for widespread problems: “There is no systemic voter fraud in the United States,” he said.
Trump has long claimed voter fraud cost him a popular vote win in 2016. This year, as mail-in voting ballooned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he began to insist the process was ripe for fraud. And now, as Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden nears a projected Electoral College victory, Trump and his allies are going to the courts and the public to claim that legitimate ballots should not be counted due to the potential for fraud.
Iglesias said it was important for Republicans to speak out as Trump ― who is on the verge of defeat in the Electoral College ― tries to undermine the election process.
“I’d like to see them stand up and be counted, and not buy into fantasy,” Iglesias said. “There is no voter fraud problem in this country. Time to move on.”
Then-President George W. Bush appointed Iglesias U.S. attorney for New Mexico in 2001. In 2006, however, the Bush administration dismissed Iglesias and several of his colleagues in what the Justice Department Inspector General later found was an effort improperly motivated by politics.
Around the time of the dismissals, Karl Rove was pushing the Justice Department to crack down on voter fraud cases, and the DOJ IG report “found evidence that complaints to Rove and others at the White House and the [Justice] Department by New Mexico Republican political officials and party activists about how Iglesias was handling voter fraud cases and a public corruption case led to Iglesias’s removal.”
Iglesias said that when he formed a task force on voter fraud, he fully expected to find cases to prosecute. He held a press conference and invited citizens to register complaints so they could be investigated. But, long story short, he says, there wasn’t a case worth bringing forward.
“That told me, as a true believer in voter fraud, that it was a phantom allegation. It’s easy to make, but the truth of the matter is prosecutors have a high burden, they have to prove any case beyond a reasonable doubt, and I wasn’t anywhere near that,” Iglesias said.
During the Trump administration, the Justice Department has similarly failed to find any major mass voter fraud scandals. Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys across the country put out press releases ahead of the election telling the American public that they were watching closely for voter fraud.
But as Trump spreads conspiracy theories about mass voter fraud that are undermining the integrity of the election, those Trump-appointed federal prosecutors have stayed silent. As of Thursday afternoon, neither the Justice Department nor the FBI provided comment on Trump’s allegations.
Iglesias says that he’s hopeful that responsible Republicans will step up and speak out once it becomes clear that Biden has secured the Electoral College.
As for Republicans who believe that there are massive criminal conspiracies to steal hundreds of thousands of votes in states across the country, Iglesias says it’s time they “wake up and smell the coffee.”