Attorney General William Barr reminded federal prosecutors Monday that they should examine allegations of voting irregularities before states move to certify results in the coming weeks. But the nation’s top federal law enforcement official didn’t provide any indication that the Justice Department has come up with evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim of massive fraud in last week’s election.
In his memo, Barr notes that 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,” he wrote.
Barr’s letter to criminal prosecutors broke a days-long silence that has been awkward as Trump and his campaign lawyers have held news conferences and filed lawsuits that have been devoid of any evidence of widespread fraud. Trump claims voting irregularities explain why he is behind in states he would need to win reelection and has refused to concede defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.
A Justice official says no one asked or directed Barr to issue his memo.
The purpose of the memo is unclear, since prosecutors already know their responsibilities to investigate vote fraud and other irregularities. But it could serve to provide the President some indication that Barr and the Justice Department are working to find the evidence that Trump and his campaign so far haven’t produced.
Barr told prosecutors in his Monday memo: “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.”
“While serious allegations of voter fraud should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries,” Barr wrote.
Barr has been described by some Justice officials as obsessed with the idea of voter fraud in recent weeks. He has repeatedly inquired about efforts by prosecutors to look for signs of fraud, Justice officials say. He also asked about the possibility of sending federal officers to polling stations, though he was advised that federal law prohibited sending armed federal officers to guard the polls.