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US election: AG allows voting probes but warns against 'far-fetched' claims

Barr has been one of the most ardent and aggressive supporters of Trump, and his message comes as Trump and his legal team make so far unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud

US Presidential elections 2020 | Donald Trump

Chris Strohm | Bloomberg 

US Attorney General William Barr
Barr said he has authorised “specific instances” of investigative steps in some cases but that inquiries should not be based on specious claims

Attorney General William Barr has authorised Justice Department officials to open inquiries into potential irregularities in the presidential election, while acknowledging there’s no conclusive evidence.

Barr issued a memo allowing US attorneys across the country, as well as his top lieutenants, to “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases.”

“While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries,” Barr wrote. “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.” After the memo was released, Richard Pilger, who led the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, resigned from that post on Monday night.

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His decision was reported by the New York Times and confirmed by his email announcing it, which was tweeted out by Vanita Gupta, who headed the department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama. In the email, Pilger said he was stepping down because Barr’s new policy “abrogated the forty-year-old non-interference policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified an uncontested.”

Barr has been one of the most ardent and aggressive supporters of Trump, and his message comes as Trump and his legal team make so far unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

A Justice Department official said that neither Trump nor anyone at the White House had asked Barr to take the action, although some Republican lawmakers have urged him to intervene.

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First Published: Wed, November 11 2020. 00:09 IST