The Justice Department official who oversees investigations of voter fraud has resigned after Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue ‘substantial allegations’ of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite little evidence of fraud.
Richard Pilger will step down from the post within hours, according to an email he sent to colleagues that was obtained by The New York Times.
Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Department of Justice since 2010, submitted his resignation shortly after his boss, Barr, announced the unprecedented federal support for the investigations – a move which would delight Donald Trump.
In his email, Pilger said Barr’s memo was ‘an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference-Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.’
He said his resignation was ‘in accord with the best tradition of the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism (my most cherished Departmental recognition).’
William Barr leaves the office of Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, on Monday
Resignation letter from the director of the Election Crimes Branch
“Attached please find the Attorney General’s Memorandum of today entitled ‘Post-Voting Election Irregularity Inquiries’, an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference-Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested. Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses, pp. 84-85 (8th Ed. 2017).
“Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, and in accord with the best tradition of the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism (my most cherished Departmental recognition), I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Electoral Crimes Branch.
“I have enjoyed very much working with you for over a decade to aggressively and diligently enforce federal criminal election law, policy and practice without partisan fear or favor.
“I thank you for your support in that effort.
“The Acting Director of the Election Crimes Branch going forward will be PIN Deputy Chief Robert J. Heberle. Deputy Director Sean F. Mulryne will remain in his position.
“Please give them both the same support that I have enjoyed, and rest assured that the Public Integrity Section remains committed to operating properly in all of its functions.
“Best wishes, RCP.”
Barr’s memo angered legal experts, who pointed out that any issues around voting are handled at the state level and should not be considered a federal matter. Several analysts said that Barr was at serious risk of dragging the Department of Justice into a highly partisan electoral war, waged through the courts.
Pilger, whose 25-year career has been devoted to election crimes and public corruption, told his colleagues in the email on Monday evening that he was quitting, in a sign of how worried many within the legal community are at Barr’s unprecedented behavior.
Barr’s action comes days after 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.
In his memo, Barr argues that the existing ‘passive and delayed enforcement approach’ could undermine the vote.
He says that the precedent should be ignored, and investigations conducted rigorously before the certification of votes on December 8.
‘In instances where they are consulted, the ECB’s (Election Crimes Branch) general practice has been to counsel that overt investigative steps ordinarily should not be taken until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified and all recounts and election contests concluded,’ he wrote.
‘Such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified.’
A Justice Department official told the New York Times that Barr had authorized scrutiny of allegations about ineligible voters in Nevada and backdated mail-in ballots Pennsylvania.
Election workers count ballots in Philadelphia on Sunday as the process continues
Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, insists his state’s vote was fairly held
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 favor.
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.
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 the memo to U.S. 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 on December 14 to finalize the outcome.
Electoral workers in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, examine votes on November 5
Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor, told Law&Crime Network that the ‘Justice Department is not Trump’s toy – and Barr should not act like the president’s binky.’
He added: ‘Just when we thought that the most politically compliant Attorney General in modern times would go quietly into the night, Bill Barr rises from his bunker and shocks us again.’
National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime: ‘This is getting rather dangerously close to the line of unlawful political interference by the Justice Department.’
He pointed out the voting irregularities were usually resolved at the state level.
‘The federal government has very little role in the conduct of our elections, and there is no indication that the various quixotic lawsuits being filed in the states can’t resolve this issue just fine without intervention by DOJ,’ Moss said.
‘Hopefully this is simply more ‘election theater’ by AG Barr to assuage the president’s fragile ego than anything else.’
Biden is ahead by 43,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 148,000 votes in Michigan, 34,000 votes in Nevada and 13,000 votes in Arizona, with ballots still being counted.
Even if all of Trump’s current challenges are successful, experts believe they are unlikely to overcome those margins. The campaign has promised more challenges to come.
The Trump campaign has said it will order a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden is up by 20,000 votes, and is likely in Georgia, where he is currently up by 10,000, but they are unlikely to overturn those results. The Trump camp is furiously raising money it says will go to the effort.
The Trump campaign has yet to produce any evidence to back its claims of widespread fraud.
STATE-BY-STATE: WHERE TRUMP IS SUING AND HOW IT’S GOING
BIDEN MAJORITY TRUMP NEEDS TO OVERTURN: 45,646
On Monday the Trump campaign filed their big shot at overturning all mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, claiming that Democratic and Republican counties did not administer them in the same way; instances of fraud; and that poll watchers could not see them being counted.
The case faces an uphill struggle. The Supreme Court has already allowed mail-in ballots to be issued in Pennsylvania, and the claim of poll watchers not seeing them being counted had failed before when a Trump lawyer last Friday agreed that a ‘non-zero number’ of Republicans had observed the count in Philadelphia.
The new suit provided no actual evidence of fraud.
Trump’s campaign last Wednesday filed a motion to intervene in a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a decision from the state’s highest court that allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday’s Election Day that were delivered through Friday.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday night ordered county election boards in the state to separate mail-in ballots received after 8 p.m. EST on Election Day.
Pennsylvania election officials have said those ballots were already being separated.
The justices previously ruled there was not enough time to decide the merits of the case before Election Day but indicated they might revisit it afterwards.
Alito, joined by fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, said in a written opinion that there was a ‘strong likelihood’ the Pennsylvania court’s decision violated the U.S. Constitution.
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar has said late-arriving ballots are a tiny proportion of the overall vote in the state.
Rudy Giuliani unveiled a ‘witness’ to his claims – a Republican poll watcher – on Saturday but the man, Daryl Brooks, has not been included in any legal papers. He was previously convicted of exposing himself to underage girls.
BIDEN MAJORITY TRUMP NEEDS TO OVERTURN: 16,985
Trump’s campaign said on Saturday it had sued in Arizona, alleging that the state’s most populous county incorrectly rejected votes cast on Election Day by some voters.
The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Maricopa County, said poll workers told some voters to press a button after a machine had detected an ‘overvote.’
The campaign said that decision disregarded voters’ choices in those races, and the lawsuit suggested those votes could prove ‘determinative’ in the outcome of the presidential race.
It is a modification of an earlier suit which was submitted and then withdrawn claiming that Trump voters were given sharpies to mark their ballots and claiming this made them more prone to error. The ‘sharpie-gate’ claims have n basis in fact, Arizona’s secretary of state says.
BIDEN MAJORITY TRUMP NEEDS TO OVERTURN: 36,186
A voter, a member of the media and two candidate campaigns sued Nevada’s secretary of state and other officials to prevent the use of a signature-verification system in populous Clark County and to provide public access to vote counting.
A federal judge rejected the request on Friday, saying there was no evidence the county was doing anything unlawful.
No new suits have been lodged so far.
Trump campaign officials have also claimed evidence that non-residents have voted but have not sued.
BIDEN MAJORITY TRUMP NEEDS TO OVERTURN: 10.620
The Trump campaign on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in state court in Chatham County that alleged late-arriving ballots were improperly mingled with valid ballots, and asked a judge to order late-arriving ballots be separated and not be counted.
The case was dismissed on Thursday. No new suits have been filed. The state is going to a recount.
The two Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, called for the GOP Secretary of State to quit claiming there were election irregularities Monday. They offered no evidence and he scoffed: ‘That’s not going to happen.’
BIDEN MAJORITY TRUMP NEEDS TO OVERTURN: 146,123
Trump’s campaign on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Michigan to halt the vote count in the state. The lawsuit alleged that campaign poll watchers were denied ‘meaningful access’ to counting of ballots, plus access to surveillance video footage of ballot drop boxes.
On Thursday, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed the case, saying there was no legal basis or evidence to halt the vote and grant requests.
No new suit has been filed.
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
The U.S. Postal Service said about 1,700 ballots had been identified in Pennsylvania at processing facilities during two sweeps on Thursday and were being delivered to election officials, according to a court filing early Friday.
The Postal Service said 1,076 ballots, had been found at its Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center. About 300 were found at the Pittsburgh processing center, 266 at a Lehigh Valley facility and others at other Pennsylvania processing centers.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington is overseeing a lawsuit by Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates.
Sullivan on Thursday ordered twice-daily sweeps at Postal Service facilities serving states with extended ballot receipt deadlines.
The judge plans to hold a status conference on Monday.
Trump campaign unveils new lawsuit in bid to disqualify hundreds of thousands of votes in Pennsylvania but with NO new evidence of fraud – after chaotic press conference with Kayleigh McEnany
President Donald Trump‘s campaign along with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany staged a chaotic press conference Monday where they claimed the election is ‘not over’ and attacked ‘partisan’ election officials but offered no new evidence of the fraud they allege.
The crowded, heated affair was just latest by Trump forces alleging fraud that ended in scraps with the media – including one in Philadelphia where the first witnesses trotted out by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani turned out to be a convicted child sex offender.
The campaign held the event to make its claims while lawyers filed a 105-page, double-spaced lawsuit in Pennsylvania court making its case to throw out more than 600,000 votes.
Plaintiffs were the campaign, former Pennsylvania state Rep. Lawrence Roberts, who is a 78-year old former cosmetologist, and Lancaster County voter David John Henry.
At Monday’s presser, it was McEnany, who was there on personal time from her job as a taxpayer-funded employee, as well as Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel laying out the allegations, and taking just a few questions.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke at a chaotic press conference where she accused Democrats of trying to ‘tip the scales’ of the election. She misstated the name of the county where Philadelphia is located and didn’t provide evidence of fraud
‘What we have seen across the country is Democrat officials systematically trying to do an end run around the Constitution to tip the scales of the election in their favor,’ said McEnany, who also lectured reporters, telling them to ask questions of election officials when they questioned her.
‘Isn’t the president just being a sore loser?’ asked a reporter after McEnany abruptly ended the event, held at RNC headquarters in Washington.
‘Our poll watchers were put behind barricades in a massive room. They were many feet from the counting process. And in fact when you look at all the tables, many hundreds of feet in fact from the tables in the back. They were completely in the dark,’ she said.
‘What are Pennsylvania Democrats hiding?’ she asked.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also spoke. Officials didn’t respond to shouted questions about whether Trump was being a ‘sore loser’
Trump Campaign general council Matthew Morgan was also present. He referenced the Pennsylvania suit filed Monday, which did not appear to contain evidence from Rudy Giuliani’s first witness, who turned out to be a convicted child sex offender
Daryl Brooks, who was Rudy Giuliani’s first witness at a press conference alleging voter fraud in Pennsylvania, is a convicted child sex offender
McEnany claimed there were no poll watchers in Philadelphia
Trump campaign general counsel Matt Morgan said Trump allies had filed suit in Pennsylvania, the site of Giuliani’s weekend presser where the first witness brought out by Giuliani was revealed to have served jail time for exposing himself to two girls, ages 7 and 11.
‘The election is not over,’ Morgan said.
McDaniel complained that observers were ‘intimidated and pushed from the process.’
But the group declined to provide evidence when reporters asked for it.
Asked if she knew votes were fraudulently cast, McEnany responded: ‘What we are asking for here is patience … We are hearing these reports. We are seeing them come in. We are vetting them.’
McDaniel claimed they had a whistleblower who was an election worker told to back-date ballots.
She rejected a question about a ‘conspiracy’ that somehow allowed House Republicans to prevail while Trump lost key battlegrounds.
‘There’s no conspiracy there,’ she responded.
‘There were 682,479 ballots counted in Philadelphia, in Allegheny County, that there were no poll watchers allowed to watch.
‘It is the job of the media to ask the question why. All we are asking for is truth, transparency and sunlight here. That is all we are asking for, and sadly we are asking the questions many of you should,’ she lectured.
Philadelphia is not in Allegheny County.
Trump’s team has not provided evidence that there were no poll watchers, claiming at other times that observers who were present didn’t have a good enough view or access. Plaintiffs acknowledged that in a Pennsylvania court dispute. Media members who were present inside counting facilities identified and observed poll watchers, which are required by law.
The officials took just two questions before abruptly ending the event.
The backdrop for the press conference was President Trump’s insistence that he ‘won’ the election and would prevail in battlegrounds TV networks have already called for President-elect Joe Biden.
‘Wisconsin is looking very good. Needs a little time statutorily. Will happen soon!’ Trump tweeted Monday. Biden leads there by more than 20,000 votes. He leads by more than 40,000 votes in Pennsylvania.
Foreign leaders have already begun calling Biden to congratulate him. Former Republican President George W. Bush also congratulated Biden and called him president elect, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose wife serves in Trump’s cabinet, is calling for the legal process to play itself out.
According to the lawsuit, which names the Pennsylvania secretary of state an county election boards, ‘Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties alone received and processed 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots without review by the political parties and candidates.’
But the suit seems to confirm there were in fact observers present. It states that ‘Allegheny and Pennsylvania counties conducted the canvassing and tabulation in convention center rooms and placed observers far away from the action.’
It charges that Democratic-run counties engaged in pre-canvassing activities ‘by reviewing received mail-in ballots for deficiencies, such as lacking the inner secrecy envelope or lacking a signature of the elector on the outer declaration envelope.’
Under state law litigated before the election, mail-in votes had to be placed inside a special security sleeve and then placed inside a second envelope to be counted.
Election officials are sometimes allowed to help voters ‘cure’ their ballots by contacting them to avoid their vote being trashed.