US Election: Justice lawyer quits after Barr orders ‘vote fraud’ inquiries

The United States (U.S.) Attorney General William Barr has allowed federal prosecutors to probe alleged irregularities in the presidential election, prompting a top justice department official to quit.

The official, Richard Pilger, would have overseen such investigations.

Any such cases would normally be the remit of individual states, but Barr said this was not a hard and fast rule.

Joe Biden’s campaign yesterday dismissed Barr’s probe authorising federal prosecutors to investigate allegations of “voting irregularities” in the 2020 election, calling it a “clumsy and cynical partisan political scheme”.

“It is deeply unfortunate that the Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against,” said Bob Bauer, a senior Biden campaign attorney.

On Monday evening, Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement official, said Justice Department prosecutors could investigate specific allegations of voter fraud before the election results are certified in December.

Barr’s directive is contained in a Nov. 9 memo titled, “Post-Voting Election Irregularity Inquiries” addressed to relevant divisions in the Department of Justice.

It came two days after the projection of Biden, as winner of the keenly-contested presidential election.

The Republican incumbent President Donald Trump has not conceded, and is alleging that the election was stolen by the Democrats, especially in battleground states.

His campaign organisation has filed lawsuits in key states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Alabama where the race has been very tight.

Trump refuses to accept Joe Biden’s projected victory, and has made unsubstantiated fraud claims.

The president’s campaign is seeking an emergency injunction in Pennsylvania to prevent Biden’s victory being certified in the state.

The president-elect’s projected win there on Saturday took him over the threshold of 270 electoral college votes needed to secure victory nationwide.

The attorney general wrote that inquiries could be made by federal prosecutors “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 said prosecutors should only look into “substantial allegations” of irregularities.

He acknowledged that individual states had the primary responsibility for the conduct of elections but said the justice department had “an obligation to ensure that federal elections are conducted in such a way that the American people can have full confidence in their electoral process and their government”.

The department would normally only go beyond preliminary investigations after an election had been concluded and the results certified, but Barr said this could result in situations where “misconduct cannot realistically be rectified”.

Pilger said he had quit in response to Barr’s memo.

“Having familiarised myself with the new policy and its ramifications… I must regretfully resign from my role,” he wrote in an email to colleagues.

Pilger became head of the department’s Election Crimes Branch in 2010. This branch, and Pilger himself, were previously in the public eye at the time of a row about extra scrutiny of political groups seeking tax exemption.

He was reported to have had discussions about the issue with Lois Lerner, the tax official at the centre of the row.

Barr’s memorandum authorising federal election fraud investigations is yet another example of the attorney general’s skill at pleasing his boss, the president, while dancing on the edge of propriety within the justice department he runs.

The document which gives Trump what he wants, proofed that the government is looking into unproven claims of widespread electoral illegalities in several states he lost by tens of thousands of votes. The attorney general, however, couches the memo with conditions and cautions that prosecutors only focus on specific “irregularities” and avoid pursuing “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims”.

Despite all the caveats, Barr’s memo will provide fodder to Trump and his supporters, who insist that the election was stolen from them (never mind that other Republican candidates had fairly successful results).

The General Services Administration (GSA), which manages federal agencies, has held off on allowing Biden aides to formally begin the transition, saying no “ascertainment” on an election winner had yet been made.

A Pentagon’s top policy official resigned yesterday, just one day after President Donald Trump abruptly fired his secretary of defense.

Acting Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James Anderson resigned after a series of clashes with the White House, specifically the personnel office over its attempts to install controversial individuals into positions of power at the Pentagon, Politico reported, citing current and former defence officials.

A defence official confirmed to Insider that Anderson resigned but did not provide further details on his resignation.

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