The intervention of Barr, who has frequently been accused of politicizing the Department of Justice, comes as Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat and promotes a number of legally meritless lawsuits aimed at casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
Barr wrote on Monday to US attorneys, giving them the green light to pursue “substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities” before the results of the presidential election in their jurisdictions are certified. As Barr himself admits in his letter, such a move by federal prosecutors to intervene in the thick of an election has traditionally been frowned upon, with the view being that investigations into possible fraud should only be carried out after the race is completed.
But Barr, who was appointed by Trump in February 2019, pours scorn on such an approach, denouncing it as a “passive and delayed enforcement approach”.
The highly contentious action was greeted with delight by Trump supporters but with skepticism from lawyers and election experts. Within hours of the news, the justice department official overseeing voter fraud investigations, Richard Pilger, had resigned from his position.