Nov. 10 (UPI) — The head of the Justice Department office that looks into potential election crimes has resigned in protest following an order from U.S. Attorney General William Barr instructing federal prosecutors to be prepared to look, if necessary, into accusations of voter fraud in the presidential race.
Richard Pilger, director of the department’s Election Crimes Branch, suggested in a memo to colleagues late Monday that his departure is a direct result of Barr’s instruction.
Barr had told prosecutors that they could investigate “substantial allegations of vote tabulation irregularities” before the election results are certified — a move that goes against longstanding tradition and policy at the Justice Department, which is intended to be the federal government’s independent, apolitical investigative arm.
Barr’s memo followed repeated and unsupported accusations by President Donald Trump and some Republicans that there was widespread mail voter fraud during the 2020 campaign. No one has yet produced any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Trump made repeated accusations all of last week and particularly after the race was called Saturday in former Vice President Joe Biden’s favor.
“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 wrote in the letter, which was posted to Twitter by advocate and former Justice Department assistant attorney for civil rights Vanita Gupta.
Trump has not conceded the race and his appointed administrator at the General Services Administration has not yet affirmed Biden as the presumptive winner, a step that unlocks millions in federal funds that allow presidents-elect to begin forming their administrations.
Some experts have expressed concern that delaying the start of the Biden’s transition could put the country even more behind the COVID-19 pandemic and open the United States to national security risks.
In his letter, Pilger said Barr’s memo amounted to “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.”
Barr’s memo doesn’t order prosecutors to investigate fraud, but rather instructs them to be prepared to do so if evidence or the need arises. Barr also hasn’t given any indication that the department has any evidence to support Trump’s claims.
Nevertheless, Gupta said Barr’s memo is an attempt at “scaremongering” intended to cast an even greater cloud over the election results.
“Trump is furious, demanding all ‘his’ lawyers take action,” she wrote. “They have no evidence, so they’ll push the [narrative].”