The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent out an email on Wednesday informing federal prosecutors that they can send armed federal agents into locations where ballots are being counted to investigate possible voter fraud, according to the New York Times:
“The email created the specter of the federal government intimidating local election officials or otherwise intervening in vote tallying amid calls by President Trump to end the tabulating in states where he was trailing in the presidential race, former officials said.
“A law prohibits the stationing of armed federal officers at polls on Election Day. But a top official told prosecutors that the department interpreted the statute to mean that they could send armed federal officers to polling stations and locations where ballots were being counted anytime after that.”
The email was sent out shortly before President Donald Trump began claiming he had won the presidential election and suggesting that voter fraud was rampant in state where votes were still being counted, angrily declaring, ““We want all voting to stop.”
The president’s campaign has filed lawsuits to force the states of Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to stop tabulating ballots, laying the groundwork for contesting the final counts in those three states if they’re unfavorable to him.
State election officials, however, say they won’t be deterred or intimidated by any threats or lawsuits, with Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts noting:
“Elections are a state matter, and we have authority as state officials over anyone trying to enter locations where ballots are being counted. Anything else is a radical reinterpretation of the law. States can handle elections, and we will ensure the people decide the outcome.”
Legal experts also told the Times that Barr’s memo seems to be little more than an attempt to mollify the president.
Vanita Gupta, who served as acting head of the DOJ’s Civil Right Division in the Obama administration, remarked:
“This seems like a messaging tactic for the attorney general. Lawfully, the Justice Department can’t interfere in the vote count, enter polling places or take ballots, even in the course of an investigation.”
So far, no DOJ officials or officers have entered any counting facilities.
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