US Lawyer Basic okays probe into vote ‘irregularities’

Washington, November 10

Attorney General William Barr has authorised federal prosecutors across the US to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite little evidence of fraud.

Barr’s action comes days after Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald 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 formally certified.

Trump has not conceded the election and is instead claiming without evidence that there has been a widespread, multi-state conspiracy by Democrats to skew the vote tally in Biden’s favour.

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, though there have been minor issues that are typical in elections, including voting machines breaking and ballots that were miscast and lost.

In a memo to US attorneys, obtained by The Associated Press, 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.”

States have until December 8 to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results. Members of the Electoral College meet December 14 to finalise the outcome. Although a few Republicans have urged Trump to concede, the President still held the support of prominent party leaders who had yet to congratulate Biden.

Trump’s campaign on Monday filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden’s victory in the battleground state, where Biden led by more than 45,000 votes. It alleged the state’s mail-in voting system violated the US Constitution by creating “an illegal two-tiered voting system” where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.

It was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the boards of elections in Democratic-leaning counties that include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Boockvar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The Trump campaign’s latest filing is another attempt to throw out legal votes,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said on Twitter. Pennsylvania state Representative Dawn Keefer on Tuesday planned to call for a legislative audit of the state’s election results. —AP

‘Pursue substantial allegations’

  • William Barr has told prosecutors that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for investigation. He, however, did say he was authorising prosecutors to “pursue substantial allegations” of irregularities of voting.
  • Biden’s campaign said Barr was fueling Trump’s allegations of fraud. “Those are the very kind of claims that the President is making unsuccessfully every day,” said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden.

Wasn’t Trump’s yes-man: Esper

  • US President Donald Trump said he had “terminated” Defence Secretary Mark Esper, signalling he may use his final months in office after defeat at the polls to settle scores within his administration.
  • Trump had split with Esper over a range of issues and was particularly angered by his public opposition to Trump’s threats to use military forces to suppress street protests over racial injustice. Also, Esper in an interview had said he was not Trump’s “yes-man”.

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