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DOJ Rolls Back Rule Preventing Prosecutors From Interfering in Elections

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  • According to an internal email first accessed by ProPublica, the Department of Justice is rolling back a decades-long rule that bars prosecutors from publicly announcing election-related criminal investigations or engaging in similar activities in the months before the election.
  • The rule was intended to prevent prosecutors from taking actions that could sway the election by hurting public confidence in election results or depressing voter turnout.
  • Many experts say the move is an intentional effort by Attorney General Barr, who has backed the many false claims President Trump has made about the security of mail-in voting, in order to generate more public distrust in the system and help Trump’s re-election chances.
  • In a statement, the DOJ said the email was part of routine guidance for election preparations, and that no political appointee had any role in “directing, preparing or sending” it.

DOJ Weakens Decades-Old Rule

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has weakened a 40-year-old rule that prohibited federal prosecutors from interfering in elections by announcing fraud-related criminal investigations or arrests in the months before Election Day, according to an internal email first reported by ProPublica Wednesday.

The email, according to the outlet, was sent on Friday by an official in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section to a group of prosecutors, specifically outlines “an exception to the general non-interference with elections policy.” 

Under that exception, federal prosecutors can now take public investigative actions before an election is over if they suspect election fraud has occurred that involves postal workers or military employees.

Previously, the long-standing department rule barred federal prosecutors from taking public steps in the months before an election due to concerns that they could depress voter turnout or erode public confidence in election results and thus sway the outcome.

For decades, the rule had been engrained in official DOJ policies and literature, including the most recent official DOJ handbook for Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses.

That handbook explicitly says that starting a public investigation before the election ends, “runs the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities. It also runs the significant risk of interjecting the investigation itself as an issue, both in the campaign and in the adjudication of any ensuing election contest.”

Experts Voice Concerns

Notably, DOJ officials told ProPublica that the exception is written in a way that it could cover other types of investigations. However, the fact that it specifically singled out postal workers and defense employees — who play a role in delivering military ballots —  is incredibly significant.

As the report notes, both are groups that President Donald Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed are susceptible to fraud and will result in a rigged election.

While the vast majority of experts have said that is not true, Attorney General Bill Barr has also backed Trump in spreading falsities. As a result, many experts are concerned that Barr will use this exemption to the decades-long DOJ policy to bolster those false claims and help Trump’s re-election chances by undermining public confidence in the outcome of the election.

With this move, the DOJ could “build a narrative, despite the absence of any evidence, of fraud in mail-in voting so Trump can challenge the election results if he loses,” Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama under the Barack Obama administration told The New York Times.

“They’ve told us this is their strategy, and we’re watching them implement it.”

That point was also echoed by Justin Levitt, a former official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division who worked on voting issues.

“It’s not good to have an exemption from a noninterference in elections policy,” he told The Washington Post. “That means, ‘here are the ways we are allowed to interfere in elections.’ I worry that this policy is a green light to use federal law enforcement investigations for partisan political purposes.”

But Justice Department officials pushed back against the claim that this decision was politically motivated.

“Career prosecutors in the Public Integrity Section of the Department’s Criminal Division routinely send out guidance to the field during election season,” DOJ spokesperson Matt Lloyd said in a statement to the media. “This email was simply part of that ongoing process of providing routine guidance regarding election-related matters. No political appointee had any role in directing, preparing or sending this email.”

Department officials also told reporters that the email was not intended to reflect a policy change, but instead to highlight certain exceptions to the policy that had already existed.

But many election experts, career prosecutors, and other former DOJ officials contradicted both those remarks.

“This is anything but routine,” former federal prosecutor Anne Milgram told CNN. “DOJ has not in the history that I have known relaxed any rule in a way like this. It is giving a green light to impact the election.”

Others also pointed to the fact that avoiding election interference has been a long-held, overarching tradition within the DOJ and something that Barr himself even reiterated in guidance he issued back in May.

“Partisan politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges,” he wrote.

“Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of public statements (attributed or not), investigative steps, criminal charges, or any other action in any matter or case for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

Pennsylvania Ballots and DOJ Justifications

Regarding that May guidance specifically, numerous experts have also speculated that part of the reasoning behind this new change was to justify a widely criticized announcement made by Barr and the DOJ a few weeks ago, which appeared to violate those very same guidelines.

In an incredibly unusual decision, the DOJ broke with long-standing policy and publicly announced it was investigating whether local elections officials in Pennsylvania illegally discarded nine mail-in military ballots, seven of which the agency said were cast for Trump.

The announcement itself — and especially the decision to include the part about seven of the ballots being cast for Trump — was condemned by several experts. Many noted that not only did it go against Barr’s own guidance, but it was also irrelevant to the investigation and specifically helped feed Trump’s baseless attacks on mail-in voting.

Trump has since repeatedly used the Pennsylvania incident to fuel his false claims that the system voting is riddled with fraud, despite the fact that the state’s top election official later said that early indications have shown that the incident was “a bad error” and “not intentional fraud.”

The combination of Trump using this incident and the DOJ announcing it has sparked concern over the DOJ using its power to help Trump. Especially because, at the time, it was reported that Barr himself had personally told Trump about the incident before the DOJ made the announcement.

In fact, it was actually Trump who first mentioned the Pennsylvania ballots during a media interview, with the DOJ then issuing its release later. 

With this new guidance allowing prosecutors to intervene in elections, experts say that not only may this be a justification for the Pennsylvania announcement, but Americans could also expect to see more events like this moving forward.

“It makes me think that what’s coming is a series of announced investigations or partial theories of incomplete facts, pertaining to the mail-in voting process, that are further designed to undermine the integrity of an election process that is actually quite secure,” Levitt said.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

Politics

Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid

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The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.


Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname

From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”

The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.

“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”

“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”

In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.

Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.

The Party of Trump or DeSantis?

One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.

“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.

The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.

Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.

The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.

Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.

A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.

Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)

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The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know

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The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.


Election Delays Expected

As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.

These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.

There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified.  Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.

There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.

Red Mirage, Blue Mirage

One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes. 

In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.

That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.

For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day. 

Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.

At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.

Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.

Other Possible Slow-Downs

Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.

For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold. 

In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.

Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (ABC News) (Reuters)

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DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally

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The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.


Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues

The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress. 

Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.

In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.

According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.

Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.

One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002. 

Heightened Security Concerns

The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).

On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.

The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.

As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.

That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.

In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”

She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.

Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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