While Joe Biden has been projected to win the 2020 presidential election, the incumbent Donald Trump has taken the unprecedented step of alleging without evidence that widespread voter fraud led to his opponent’s victory. As a result, the normal process of transition of power has been halted, and Trump is unlikely to concede to Biden under even the most extreme circumstances.
This has resulted in a bizarre memo from Attorney General William Barr, in which he authorizes federal prosecutors to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud. This is against normal Department of Justice operational procedures, which hold that prosecutors should not investigate elections while votes are still being tabulated and before the election has been officially called.
The memo, in turn, resulted in the resignation of Richard Pilger, former director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ. Pilger wrote a letter of resignation indicating that he could no longer do his job due to the memo from AG Barr.
“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 Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger’s letter reads. He has confirmed that he will be staying on with the DOJ in another capacity, however, just not in his current role.
“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.”
Attorney General Barr faces political pressure from both the left and the right. He has been accused by pundits on the left as acting as Trump’s personal lawyer, placing the president’s whims above the interests of the country. Conversely, he’s come under fire in the days since Joe Biden was projected to win the election for not forcefully defending Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
Barr’s memo, in turn, acts as a catalyst for further spreading Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. Despite the Trump campaign’s insistence, they have provided little evidence of substantial fraud.
What’s more, the margins by which Joe Biden carried swing states like Georgia and Pennsylvania make it clear that it would take unprecedented numbers of fraudulent votes to move the needle back in favor of the incumbent. As such, Barr is now facing criticism from many career civil servants for stoking what they see as a conspiracy theory.