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Top DOJ official resigns in protest after AG Barr authorized voting irregularity investigation

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On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr authorized federal prosecutors to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified. Within hours of the memo being released, the head of the branch of the Justice Department that prosecutes election crimes, Richard Pilger, resigned in protest.

Pilger, who was director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ, sent a memo to colleagues that suggested his resignation was linked to Barr’s memo. The document was issued as the president’s legal team mounts legal challenges to the election results in the 2020 presidential election, alleging widespread voter fraud.

He told colleagues in an email that the attorney general was issuing “an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.” Pilger also forwarded the memo to colleagues in his resignation letter.

“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 stated. He will continue working in the DOJ as a line prosecutor in the Public Integrity section prosecuting corruption cases.

“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.”

Pilger has previously worked closely with Lois Lerner at the IRS during the Obama administration. He was involved in the alleged targeting of Tea Party organizations. Pilger, when subpoenaed to Capitol Hill by Darrell Issa in 2014, refused to answer over three dozen questions under oath on the advice of DOJ attorneys.

The issuance of the memo is a change in Justice Department policy, which had previously advised prosecutors that “overt investigative steps ordinarily should not be taken until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.”

Barr declared that guidance as being outdated: “Such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified,” Barr said in the memo.

Trump will not concede to Biden because several states are still being contested in the election and lawsuits are pending before the Supreme Court. One of his appointees in the General Services Administration has yet to sign paperwork to begin the presidential transition.

Barr was not asked or directed by the president, any lawmaker, or anyone in the White House to issue the memo to federal prosecutors, according to a Department of Justice senior official. He did meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) earlier Monday. McConnell defended the president on the Senate floor, arguing he has a right to pursue recounts and lawsuits in court.

A DOJ official said that the memo from Barr does not allege that there are substantial irregularities in the election. It authorizes local U.S. attorneys to investigate if they learn “clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.”

The memo goes further, “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. Nothing here should be taken as an indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”

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