- Attorney General William Barr sent a memo authorizing the Department of Justice to investigate voter fraud, despite the fact that there is no evidence of fraud.
- The move also breaks precedent with DOJ policy to not investigate an election until the results are certified. Barr acknowledged this but said that is not a “hard and fast rule” and that a case-specific judgment had to be made.
- Following this, the director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ, Richard Pilger, resigned from his position citing Barr’s memo and the ramifications of it.
- Others, including Biden campaign officials and prominent Democratic senators, have either slammed Barr for making this choice or slammed members of the Republican party for backing Trump in his unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Barr Authorizes Voter Fraud Investigations
The Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Department of Justice resigned Monday after Attorney General William Barr sent a memo authorizing the department to probe voter fraud, despite there being no evidence to support any wide-scale fraud in the 2020 election.
Barr’s memo breaks standard DOJ policy, not just by encouraging an investigation based on unfounded claims, but by prompting an investigation before an election has been certified.
“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 acknowledged.
“Such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified,” he added. “Moreover, this Election Crimes Branch practice has never been a hard and fast rule, and case-specific determinations and judgments must be made.”
Barr said that most allegations of misconduct would not be big enough to actually impact the results of the election, but that this is not always the case. As far as fears about the potential of the department inadvertently impacting the results of the election, Barr said that risk is small after voting is concluded, even if the election has not yet been certified.
“Given this and given that voting in our current elections has now concluded, I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases, as I have already done in specific instances,” Barr wrote.
Barr has been repeatedly criticized for politicizing his department in favor of the White House. In his memo, he encouraged attorneys to maintain a commitment to neutrality and not investigate “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims.”
Election Crimes Director Resigns
Currently, there is no merit to the claims President Donald Trump and those in his circle have made about voter fraud in the election, which was declared for President-Elect Joe Biden on Saturday. Election officials on both sides of the aisle have said they have not seen any evidence indicating fraud.
Not long after Barr released this memo, Richard Pilger, the director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ sent out a resignation email that was obtained by multiple news outlets.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Barr’s announcement comes just a month after the DOJ lifted constraints when it comes to election fraud inquiries and investigations. He also released the note not long after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been backing Trump’s efforts to not concede the election.
According to sources from The New York Times, Barr himself has privately said that he thinks election disputes should be resolved within the courts. He also has said he has not seen anything indicating mass voter fraud. Still, he has cleared the path for claims to be investigated anyways.
Responses to Barr’s Announcement
Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer told the Associated Press that it is “deeply unfortunate that Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against.”
“Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another,” Bauer told the outlet. “But, in the end, American democracy is stronger than any clumsy and cynical partisan political scheme.”
Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Civil Rights division of the DOJ under former President Barack Obama, accused Barr of “scaremongering.”
“Let’s be clear – this is about disruption, disinformation, and sowing chaos. Trump is furious, demanding all ‘his’ lawyers take action,” Gupta wrote. “They have no evidence so they’ll push the PR. Doesn’t change the result.”
Even though Gupta has no faith that this effort will change the election’s outcome, she does think it will “play harm by seeking to undermine confidence, create fear and validate Trump’s lies.”
But leaders like McConnell are still pulling pages from Trump’s book and paving the way for legal battles and investigations into an election that, for all intents and purposes, still benefited them even though they lost the presidency. McConnell and other Republicans are not calling fraud on the House or Senate races their party won, even though those races were won on the same ballots Trump lost the presidency.
“In the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted. Any illegal ballots must not be counted,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Monday. “The process should be transparent or observable by all sides and the courts are here to work through concerns.”
“Our institutions are actually built for this. We have the system in place to consider concerns. And President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”
McConnell has faced backlash from Democrats for supporting the president in his baseless claims aimed at calling a fair election into question.
“The American people made their voices heard in record numbers and chose Joe Biden as their next president,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote. “Rejecting that mandate in favor of political games and conspiracy theories is a dangerous attack on our democracy—even by Mitch McConnell’s standards.”
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.
See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)
Biden Administration Orders ICE To Halt Workplace Raids
The Department of Homeland Security will now focus on targeting employers who exploit undocumented workers, instead of carrying out raids that dissuade those workers from reporting labor violations.
DHS Reverses Worksite Raid Policy
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop workplace raids.
The move marks a reversal from Trump administration policies that have been strongly criticized by immigration activists who argue the efforts created fear in immigrant communities and dissuaded them from reporting labor violations or exploitative employment practices.
In addition to stopping the raids, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the administration will refocus enforcement efforts to instead target “employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.”
Mayorkas added that the immigration agencies housed in DHS will have the next 60 days to identify harmful existing policies and come up with new ones that provide better deportation protections for workers who report their employers.
In the Tuesday memo, the secretary argued that shift of focus will “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers” and “increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigation.”
Labor Market Implications
The new policy comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a critical labor shortage, including in many sectors that rely on immigrant labor.
Some companies that use undocumented workers pay them wages that are far below the market rate, which is not only exploitative but also undercuts competitors.
According to Mayorkas, the pivot to employer-based enforcement will help protect American businesses.
“By exploiting undocumented workers and paying them substandard wages, the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market,” he said in the memo. “They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.”
It is currently unclear how effective the new efforts will be, but historical precedent does not paint an optimistic picture.
The Biden administration’s efforts closely mirror a similar move by the Obama administration, which attempted to reverse workplace raids authorized under President George W. Bush by targetting those who employ undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.
That effort, however, still led to thousands of undocumented workers being fired.