Bill Barr is taking us down a dangerous road

Bill Barr is taking us down a dangerous road
President Donald J. Trump, joined by U.S. Attorney William Barr, speak after disembarking Air Force One upon arrival to Joint Base Andrews, Md., Tuesday evening, Sept. 1, 2020, returning from their trip to Kenosha, Wis. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On Monday, one of President Donald Trump's top loyalists, Attorney General William Barr, announced that he had authorized a U.S. Department of Justice investigation for voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Journalist David Rohde, in an article published in The New Yorker two days later, stresses that Barr still has a chance to do the right thing and resist Trump's efforts to invalidate perfectly legitimate election results — but laments that Barr is indulging Trump's whims with pointless investigations.

Trump and many of his Republican allies have been making the baseless claim that Trump, not President-elect Joe Biden, is that the real winner of the election but has been robbed of his victory because of widespread voter fraud. But the New York Times contacted election officials in all 50 states — Democrats and Republicans — and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Rohde notes that the DOJ memo Barr issued on Monday "boosted the Trump campaign's fantastical claims that the election fraud had occurred under the watch of two Republicans: the secretary of state in Georgia and the city commissioner overseeing the vote count in Philadelphia. Barr hedged in the memo, writing 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.'"

Richard Pilger, the DOJ official who has been overseeing investigations of election crimes, quit in protest after Barr announced the voter fraud investigation. And Rohde wishes that others would speak out as well and not encourage Barr to be launching a meritless investigation.

"Trump and Barr's actions are politically dangerous," Rohde argues. "A new Politico/Morning Consult survey finds that 70% of Republicans do not think the 2020 election was 'free and fair.' False voter-fraud claims are gaining enormous audiences on Facebook, energizing and enraging the president's supporters. And Barr, along with other Republican officials, is enabling it. By any measure, he is abdicating his responsibility, as the country's chief law-enforcement officer, to uphold the rule of law, and violating his oath to protect and defend the Constitution."

Rohde concludes his piece by emphasizing that the responsible thing for Barr to do would be to halt the DOJ voter fraud investigation.

"There is no excuse for allowing a sitting president to flirt with authoritarianism," Rohde argues. "Since Barr took office, I've hoped that he would prove his critics, including myself, wrong. He can still do so. No other administration official has the power to discredit the president's false legal claims. Barr will deserve praise if he proves to be the November surprise that Trump does not want — and the one that American democracy needs."

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