The Justice Department’s top election crimes prosecutor resigned Monday, just hours after Attorney General William Barr instructed federal prosecutors to probe allegations of voting irregularities before states certify results.
In a memo on Monday, Barr authorized “specific instances” of investigative steps, such as interviewing witnesses during a time that would normally require permission from the elections crimes section, and said prosecutors had the power to investigate, but cautioned that “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”
“Given that voting in our current elections has now concluded, I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions,” Barr wrote.
Richard Pilger, director of the elections crimes branch in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, resigned hours after Barr issued his directive, telling colleagues in an email that Barr was issuing “an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.”
The attorney general did not suggest that the Justice Department had found evidence to back-up President Trump’s claims that widespread voter fraud had plagued last week’s election. Trump has refused to concede to President-Elect Joe Biden, saying, without evidence, that voter fraud in a number of key battleground states kept him from winning the election against the Democrat. The Trump campaign has vowed to pursue a number of lawsuits and to demand recounts in states where it claims fraud has occured.
Barr said that while “most allegations of purported election misconduct are of such a scale that they would not impact the outcome of an election and, thus, investigation can appropriately be deferred, that is not always the case.”
“Furthermore, any concerns that overt actions taken by the Department could inadvertently impact an election are greatly minimized, if they exist at all, once voting has concluded, even if election certification has not yet been completed,” he wrote.