Attorney General William Barr authorized the Justice Department to investigate only “substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities.”
President Trump has declined to concede the 2020 contest despite an apparent victory by former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump and his allies are pinning their hopes on legal challenges and recounts in battleground states where they claim there were illegal votes and other irregularities.
A two-page memorandum sent on Monday to the nation’s U.S. attorneys, the FBI, and DOJ’s criminal, civil rights, and national security divisions green lighted the pursuit of serious claims of voter fraud only if the allegations were credible and could potentially shift the result in a state's contest. In stressing that the Justice Department should act fairly and without politicization, Barr also said the the agency should not investigate frivolous claims.
“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,” Barr said. “Given this, and 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 in certain cases, as I have already done 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. 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.”
Barr met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his Capitol Hill earlier in the day.
A DOJ official told the Washington Examiner that neither anyone at the White House nor on Capitol Hill asked or directed Barr to issue the authorization. The Justice Department declined to say whether Barr had discussed this with McConnell.
Many media outlets, ranging from the Associated Press to Fox News, called the race for Biden on Saturday. Biden’s current lead over Trump in multiple must-win battleground states ranges from the thousands to the tens of thousands as remaining uncounted votes continue to trickle in. Biden unofficially leads by 35,000 votes in Pennsylvania, by 35,000 votes in Nevada, by 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, by 15,000 votes in Arizona, and by 11,000 votes in Georgia.
Trump and his team have dubbed the media projections premature and pointed to how the Electoral College will not meet until Dec. 14 to cast their votes for president.
“While it is imperative that credible allegations be addressed in a timely and effective manner, it is equally imperative that Department personnel exercise appropriate caution and maintain the Department's absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship,” Barr said. “You are the most senior leaders in the United States Department of Justice and I trust you to exercise great care and judgment in addressing allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities. While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful, or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”
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