- 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)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated
The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors
More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.
The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.
While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11.
An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.
In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.
Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.
Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People
Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.
But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.
While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.
According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.
Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.
Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.
For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.