DOJ Election Crimes Chief Resigns After Barr Memo on Voter Fraud Investigations

November 10, 2020 Updated: November 10, 2020

The head of the Justice Department’s (DOJ) Election Crimes Branch resigned after Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to federal prosecutors authorizing them to investigate allegations of voter fraud before the results of the election are certified.

Richard Pilger, in an email to colleagues, said he “must regretfully resign from my role” at the DOJ unit that oversees investigations into voter fraud following Barr’s memo, which authorized prosecutors “to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases.”

Barr noted in the memo that such investigations could only be conducted in the presence of “clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.” At the same time, Barr urged prosecutors to “exercise great care and judgment in addressing allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities,” adding that, “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.”

Pilger, in announcing his intention to resign, called the thrust of Barr’s memo “an important new policy abrogating the 40-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested,” referring to a DOJ guidance document on federal prosecution of election offenses (pdf).

The document, which serves as internal DOJ guidance and doesn’t purport to create enforceable rights in criminal matters, stipulates that the department’s role is to investigate election crimes “to deter corruption of future elections,” rather than make determinations about which candidate won a particular election, or whether the presence of alleged voter fraud is grounds for an election redo.

“In most instances, these issues are for the candidates to litigate in the courts or to advocate before their legislative bodies or election boards,” the guidelines state, adding that probes of election fraud should be carefully weighed to mitigate “the significant risk of interjecting the investigation itself as an issue, both in the campaign and in the adjudication of any ensuing election contest.”

“Overt criminal investigative measures should not ordinarily be taken in matters involving alleged fraud in the manner in which votes were cast or counted until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded,” the document states.

Barr, in his memo, acknowledged the policy of waiting to investigate voter fraud until an election has been certified and all recounts and election contests concluded, but added that “such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified.”

The attorney general added that “nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election,” adding that the guidance is being provided so that voters can have “full confidence in the results of our elections.”

The DOJ didn’t immediately respond to a request from The Epoch Times for comment.

Epoch Times Photo
(L) President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, early on Nov. 4, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during election night at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., early on Nov. 4, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was declared president-elect on Nov. 7 by a number of media outlets after projected victories in Pennsylvania and Nevada put him over the 270 electoral vote threshold. Biden has also claimed victory in the presidential race, amending his Twitter bio to include the title “president-elect.”

President Donald Trump has alleged voter fraud and said any declarations of victory are premature, with his campaign announcing a raft of legal challenges.

“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Trump said in a statement. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor.

“Legal votes decide who is president, not the news media,” he added.

The Epoch Times isn’t calling a winner in the presidential race until all legal challenges are resolved.

There hasn’t been an election in decades in which such widespread fraud was alleged. The closest was the 1960 election, in which Democrat John F. Kennedy beat Republican Richard Nixon, and there were allegations that fraud helped Kennedy win.

The claims of alleged voter fraud in the 2020 presidential race also reflect the broad difference in attitude between Republicans and Democrats toward the contested election. The GOP is pushing to crack down on alleged election fraud by invalidating some ballots and insisting that only “legal” votes should count, while Democrats argue that the level of fraud is insignificant and stress the message that every vote should count.

The Heritage Foundation’s election fraud database contains 1,298 proven instances of voter fraud over the course of decades, while noting that it “is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list” which doesn’t capture reported instances that aren’t investigated or prosecuted.

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