After U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday issued a directive to his staff calling for U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate “substantial allegations” reports of election fraud before all presidential election ballots are certified, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel described the action as partisan and designed to help GOP President Donald Trump win reelection.
“Given the timing of this memo and the current atmosphere surrounding the recent election, the intention is clear,” Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement. “This change in policy is not intended to better serve the people of the United States by ensuring that justice is done, but rather to signal to the President that his irresponsible and unsupported insistence that he won his race for reelection is taken seriously. There have not been an unusual number of credible claims of voting irregularities this election, and there have been no credible claims of vote tabulation irregularities, such as would justify an abrupt change in a longstanding policy.”
The Trump re-election campaign has filed multiple election-related lawsuits in several states, including Michigan. The Associated Press on Nov. 4 declared former Vice President and current Democratic nominee Joe Biden as the winner of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes. Biden leads Trump by 146,990 votes in unofficial Secretary of State returns, or a 3% margin. On Saturday, AP declared Biden president-elect.
Nessel said Michigan’s presidential election process “ran as smoothly as ever.”
Each state has until Dec. 8 to resolve presidential election disputes. That includes recounts and court cases over the results. The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 to finalize elections.
Barr’s action reversed a DOJ policy that has stood for 40 years. Under the policy and during that period, the DOJ’s Election Crimes Branch has declined to investigate election fraud until the election is concluded, the results certified, and contests and recounts resolved. Richard Pilger, head of the branch, resigned on Monday night in protest of the Barr memo.
“I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger wrote in a letter to DOJ colleagues. “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.”
Nessel indicated support of Pilger’s decision.
“I applaud Mr. Pilger and any other DOJ staff, U.S. Attorneys, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys who have the courage to put their ethical obligations first,” Nessel said.
Nessel said the purpose of the DOJ policy delaying election fraud investigations is “to avoid casting unwarranted doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process.”
“And likewise, the purpose of yesterday’s memo is to assist the President in his current efforts to do just that: to cast unwarranted doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process,” Nessel said. “Worse than that, however, the memo is transparently a favor to the President, as it lends a misplaced air of legitimacy to his baseless claims of massive widespread voter fraud in Michigan and elsewhere.”