William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, has authorised federal prosecutors to look into any possible “substantial” allegations of voting irregularities in last week’s presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
Barr’s memo on Monday followed days of attacks on the integrity and legality of the election by President Donald Trump, who has not conceded the election to Democrat Joe Biden and thrown the presidential transition into tumult by blocking government officials from cooperating with the president-elect’s team.
There has been no indication of enough improperly counted or illegally cast votes that would shift the outcome and, in fact, election officials from both political parties have publicly stated the election went well, though there have been minor issues that are typical in elections, including voting machines breaking and ballots that were miscast and lost.
Barr’s action prompted the resignation of the senior Department of Justice official who oversees investigations of voter fraud.
In a memo to federal prosecutors and the FBI director, Barr wrote that 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”.
“Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election,” he said.
The letter was the first time Barr had addressed claims of voter fraud since last Tuesday’s showdown between Trump and Biden.
“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,” Barr wrote.
States have until December 8 to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results, and members of the Electoral College meet on December 14 to finalise the outcome.