'The DOJ is not Trump's toy': Legal experts warn Bill Barr's election fraud probe teeters on 'unlawful political interference'
Although President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris enjoy a decisive lead in the 2020 presidential race — defeating President Donald Trump by more than 4.2 million votes and flipping Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other battleground states that Trump won in 2016 — Trump is refusing to concede and making the baseless claim that he was robbed of a victory by widespread voter fraud. Now, Attorney General William Barr is indulging Trump's conspiracy theory and asking the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a voter fraud investigation. And legal experts are speaking out, some of them criticizing Barr vehemently.
Reporter Matt Naham, in Law & Crime, explains, "The Wall Street Journal reported that Barr sent a memo…. to U.S. attorneys on Monday empowering them to investigate 'substantial allegations' of voting irregularities. According to the Journal, the memo says prosecutors' 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.' There has been no evidence in any of the Trump campaign's lawsuits to support election-altering fraud."
Ross Garber, an expert on election law and adjunct assistant professor at Tulane Law School in New Orleans, told Law & Crime that "election fraud investigations are usually conducted by state officials."
According to Garber, "While the Department of Justice has an established and long-standing role in protecting voting rights and conducting related inquiries, the president's unsubstantiated allegations understandably lead to skepticism. I'm also skeptical, but will reserve judgment."
Former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi told Law & Crime, "(The) Justice Department is not Trump's toy — and Barr should not act like the president's binky. 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."
Attorney Bradley P. Moss, known for his expertise on national security, is vehemently critical of Barr, telling Law & Crime, "This is getting rather dangerously close to the line of unlawful political interference by the Justice Department. 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. Hopefully, this is simply more 'election theater' by AG Barr to assuage the president's fragile ego than anything else."
Here is what legal experts have been tweeting about the voter fraud investigation that Barr is calling for:
Barr already has turned DOJ into a political weapon for Trump. Now he has crossed the last line of independence, an… https://t.co/qDZlXRqPbC— Elie Honig (@Elie Honig) 1604966897.0
1) We’ve seen this movie before — problematic DOJ probe that ends up going nowhere. 2) DOJ can’t stop states from… https://t.co/vGltCnP5oI— Steve Vladeck (@Steve Vladeck) 1604966633.0
Barr’s memo to prosecutors negates DOJ policy re: not getting involved til after election certified. Not good. BUT… https://t.co/oOtyXHRiud— Mimi Rocah (@Mimi Rocah) 1604968657.0
The measure of a man’s character when Barr’s proclamation, “History is written by the winners, so it largely depen… https://t.co/8ZB3bVdYc1— Peter Strzok (@Peter Strzok) 1604968595.0
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