POLITICS

After Baseless Trump Claims, Barr Says DOJ Can Investigate Voter Fraud Allegations

The attorney general's memo to federal prosecutors seems poised to aid the narrative that there are questions about President-elect Joe Biden's win.

As high-ranking Republicans refuse to speak out against President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, Attorney General William Barr sent top federal prosecutors a memo that will further feed the narrative that there are questions about last week’s election of President-elect Joe Biden.

Barr’s memo, sent to U.S. attorneys across the country, authorizes an exception to Justice Department guidelines, telling top federal prosecutors they could “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases.” Barr wrote that he’d already done so in specific instances.

“Such inquiries and reviews may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State,” Barr wrote. “Any investigation of claims of irregularities that, if true, would clearly not impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State should normally be deferred until after the election certification process is completed.”

There are no credible allegations of mass voter fraud. But there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around the internet that have been taken up by the president, who lost the popular vote by millions and is headed for a significant Electoral College defeat after Biden passed the 270-vote threshold Saturday morning. 

Barr’s memo prompted the Justice Department’s top official overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign hours later, according to The New York Times. The official, Richard Pilger, reportedly told colleagues he would move to a nonsupervisory role prosecuting corruption cases in the department’s Public Integrity Section.

“Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, I must regretfully resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger wrote to colleagues in an email obtained by the Times. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about reports regarding Pilger’s resignation.

Republican voters have been primed for claims of mass voter fraud for years, even though election experts across the spectrum agree that voter fraud is not a significant problem in American elections. A former Republican-appointed top federal prosecutor told HuffPost that the president’s claims smell of “desperation,” while a group of Republican-appointed top federal prosecutors said they felt compelled to speak out about Trump’s unfounded claims about fraud, which they said “have the potential to undermine the rule of law as it applies to our electoral process.” 

Barr’s memo states that it should not be read as an indication the Justice Department has concluded that voting irregularities affected the election outcome and said that “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries. 

Yet it once again represents an instance in which Barr has taken action that aids the president’s chosen political narrative.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for Barr, provided a copy of the memo but did not respond to HuffPost’s question about whether the memo would feed conspiracies or was an effort to spare Trump’s feelings.

As the president who appointed him worked to undermine the election, Barr wrote that it was important that “all of the American people, regardless of their preferred candidate or party, can have full confidence in the results of our elections. The American people and the leaders they freely elect deserve nothing less.”

Sanjana Karanth contributed to this report.

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