WASHINGTON – Career Justice Department prosecutors this week rejected a memo from Attorney General William P. Barr that opened the door to investigations into politically motivated electoral fraud, saying in two posts that Barr had pushed the ministry in politics and wrongly exaggerated the threat of electoral fraud.
The protests were Mr Barr’s latest reprimand by his own employees, who in recent months have begun to criticize his leadership both in private and in public. They argued that Mr Barr worked to advance President Trump’s interests by wielding the power of the department to protect his allies and attack his enemies.
On Friday, 16 federal prosecutors across the country, tasked with monitoring elections for signs of fraud, wrote to Barr that they had found no evidence of “substantial allegations of voting irregularities and tabulation ”. They also asked him to cancel the memo, saying it plunged the department into partisan politics and was unnecessary as no one identified legitimate suspicions of massive voter fraud.
The memo “is not based on the facts,” the Monitors wrote.
Released on Monday amid the president’s efforts to falsely claim widespread electoral fraud, the memo allows prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of fraud before presidential race results are certified, in defiance of long-standing politicians. date of the department aimed at preventing law enforcement investigations from affecting the outcome of an election.
“It was developed and announced without consulting non-partisan career professionals in the field and in the ministry,” prosecutors wrote of the memo. “The timing of the memorandum’s release propels career prosecutors into partisan politics.” The Washington Post reported their letter earlier.
On Thursday, a high-level prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said in an email sent to Mr. Barr via Richard P. Donoghue, an official in the Assistant Attorney General’s Office, that the note should be rescinded as it was going to against long-standing practices. , according to two people with knowledge of the email.
Prosecutor JP Cooney also said that Richard Pilger, a longtime employee of the department that oversees voter fraud crimes, chose to step down from that post because of the memo was of deep concern, said the people.
In response, Mr. Donoghue told Mr. Cooney that he would pass on his complaint, but that if it leaked to reporters, he would note it as well. Since the email was born out of a concern for integrity, Donoghue said in his response that he would assure officials “that I am very confident that it will not be unduly disclosed to the media.”
A spokesperson for the department declined to comment on Mr. Cooney’s post. When asked about prosecutors’ letter to Mr Barr, she said her memo directed prosecutors “to exercise caution and maintain the department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and accountability. ‘impartiality”.
Others within the ministry pointed out that Mr Barr’s memo was carefully drafted and contained caveats that made it unlikely that a prosecutor could reach the threshold to open a case and begin an investigation.
“Speculative, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched allegations should not be a basis for launching federal investigations,” Barr wrote in his memo. “Nothing here should be taken as an indication that the ministry concluded that voting irregularities had an impact on the outcome of any election.”
Lawyers in the department often engage in heated debates about policies, investigations, and prosecutions, but rarely put their criticisms in writing and then send them to senior officials.
But Mr Barr’s memo sparked resentment among prosecutors working on voter fraud, in large part because Mr. Trump himself was making false claims about widespread voter fraud. Even the specter of such an investigation into the presidential race votes could tarnish the integrity of the election.
Mr. Pilger, the prosecutor who oversees electoral fraud at the department’s headquarters in Washington, resigned his oversight role in protest hours after its publication; and other attorneys affected by the memo have started devising plans to delay Mr Barr’s authorization and what to do if a U.S. attorney announces an election probe, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
Even as department officials and career prosecutors argued over the memo, Mr. Trump’s election-related legal affairs began to unfold on Friday. A Michigan state judge has rejected an attempt by Republicans to stop voting certification in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, pending an audit. And Mr. Trump’s attorneys have withdrawn election-related lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Arizona.