“Now that the voting has concluded, it is imperative that the American people can trust that our elections were conducted in such a way that the outcomes accurately reflect the will of the voters.” AG Barr
In a memo released Monday, Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors “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.“
He said this did not mean that the Justice Department had ascertained that irregularities had impacted election outcomes. Rather, the threshold to launch inquiries had been met through “clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual state.” These will be the “outcome determinative” states—battleground ones.
Barr said that in situations where irregularities had no likelihood to impact a federal election outcome, the procedure is to defer reviews and inquiries until the election certification process is completed.
Election Crimes Branch director ducks investigating election crimes
That last clause proved most controversial—Richard Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Branch, resigned. Writing to colleagues he said, “Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, I must regretfully resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch.” Mr. Pilger criticized Barr for ignoring a 40-year precedent of not interfering in the election process until after all votes have been counted.
The New York Times characterized his resignation as a principled stand by a longtime government official, despite appearances that Pilger decided investigating election fraud was out of his purview. Pilger will move to a nonsupervisory role working on corruption prosecutions.
Pilger’s involvement in the IRS scandal
Commentators were familiar with Pilger’s name from letters sent by officials to conservatives and conservative groups, as part of their thesis that conservative groups could be prosecuted for misleading the IRS about their political activities.
During the Obama years, these officials asked about things like the contents of prayers and sent obtrusive questionnaires for donor lists and text of speeches. Some groups, just because they had the word “liberty” in their title got caught up in this scheme. At the time, the Wall Street Journal said: “Mr. Pilger was a foot on the gas pedal during the IRS’s increased screening of conservative 501(c) groups.”
In a later Senate report, they found, “Mr. Pilger wanted to know who at IRS the Dept. of Justice folks could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea that Dept of Justice could piece together false statement cases about applicants who ‘lied’ on their 1024s—saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures.”
House Republicans raise concern over irregularities
Barr’s memo came in response to a letter from 39 House Republicans urging the Attorney General to direct Department of Justice resources toward allegations of voting irregularities across the U.S., and several battleground states.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), said, “I’ve joined 38 of my colleagues in writing a letter to AG Bill Barr requesting he investigate claims of voter fraud and make sure only all legal votes are counted in this election. The American people need to have confidence that the outcome of this election is legitimate!!“
I’ve joined 38 of my colleagues in writing a letter to AG Bill Barr requesting he investigate claims of voter fraud and make sure only all legal votes are counted in this election.
The American people need to have confidence that the outcome of this election is legitimate!! pic.twitter.com/lXHYCU7FFC
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) November 7, 2020
They asked Barr what he was doing to ensure the integrity of the voting and counting process, and whether he would commit to using all the resources at his disposal to ensure that only legal votes were being counted and being counted in a fully transparent manner immediately.
Barr noted, “Serious allegations should be handled with great care, and that nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”
He reaffirmed the Department’s “absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and non- partisanship,” while addressing credible allegations in a timely manner. The priority being that all Americans “have full confidence in the results of our elections, regardless of their preferred candidate or party.”
We also know from the New York Times, that a Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr had authorized scrutiny of allegations about ineligible voters in Nevada and backdated mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. The Trump campaign, too, is in the process of filing lawsuits in those states.
Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on U.S. public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at the University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed an MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.