Bill Barr is ready to investigate nonexistent voter fraud
Election Day is over, but key members of the federal government continue to refuse to acknowledge former Vice President Joe Biden's victory. The Trump administration remains intent on incorrectly painting the election as illegitimate. That mission escalated Monday, when Attorney General William Barr gave U.S. attorneys the go-ahead to "pursue substantial allegations" of voter fraud — despite no evidence that such valid allegations really exist.
Since election took place, President Trump has falsely asserted election fraud, with his campaign going so far as to sue Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia to lay the groundwork to contest outcomes there. However, there have been no signs that Trump's allegations are true. In fact, a team of 28 international election observers said they found no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, that isn't going to stop Trump appointees like Barr from backing the president. CBS News reported that in a memo released Monday, Barr wrote, "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."
"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 continued.
In response, the DOJ's top prosecutor for election crimes, Richard Pilger, resigned. Vanita Gupta, a former assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration, obtained and tweeted an email by Pilger, where he writes, "Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications ... I must regretfully resign from my role."
There are two important things to note about Barr's memo. First, as Gupta pointed out in a tweet, it essentially serves to "provide validation for Trump's disinformation." While the memo invites attorneys to investigate fraud, Barr himself still provided no evidence of it. CBS News reported that while Barr said he looked into some cases, he said that "nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of the election."
In addition, Barr's memo goes against Department of Justice policy meant to ensure the agency isn't impacting an election's outcome. Generally, the DOJ doesn't do any investigating before an election is certified. The DOJ's own manual on the Prosecution of Election Offenses says that "it is the general policy of the department not to conduct overt investigations, including interviews with individual voters, until after the outcome of the election allegedly affected by the fraud is certified."
But the DOJ's willingness to go against long-standing policies and norms to support Trump's false claims was seen earlier this month when it said armed agents could be sent to investigate voter fraud. And Barr himself spent the months leading up to the election, also incorrectly claiming that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud. The DOJ also tried to step in on Trump's personal legal troubles, like the lawsuit against him from E. Jean Carroll.
The DOJ isn't the only federal agency acting up in the face of Trump's loss. The General Services Administration refuses to sign off on key documents to start the transition process, which has prompted Biden's transition team to threaten legal action if the agency does not make an official declaration acknowledging that Biden won.