Attorney General William Barr has authorized federal prosecutors across the US to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they exist, before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite no evidence of widespread fraud. Barr’s action comes days after Joe Biden defeated President Trump and raises the prospect that Trump will use the Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome. It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is certified in December, the AP reports. Biden holds a sizable lead in multiple battleground states and there has been no indication of enough improperly counted or illegally cast votes that would shift the outcome. In fact, election officials from both political parties have publicly stated the election went well.
In a memo to US attorneys, obtained by the AP, Barr wrote that investigations “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.” He said any allegations that would “clearly not impact the outcome of a federal election” should be delayed until after those elections are certified and prosecutors should likely open so-called preliminary inquiries, which would allow investigators and prosecutors to see if there is evidence that would allow them to take further investigative measures. On Monday night, the Justice Department’s top prosecutor for election crimes, Richard Pilger, said he would step down from that post in response to Barr's memo, according to an email he sent that was obtained by the AP. He is still expected to remain as an attorney within the Justice Department’s criminal division. (More here.)