US attorney general William Barr approves election fraud investigation

A smooth transition of power in the US is looking less likely with Donald Trump blocking co-operation with Joe Biden’s team and the US attorney general authorising investigations into allegations of electoral fraud.

The Electoral College is scheduled to formally confirm Mr Biden‘s victory on 14 December with the Democrat being sworn into office in late January.

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‘This election is not over. Far from it’

However, few Republicans have acknowledged the victory and some, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have rallied behind Mr Trump‘s efforts to fight the election results.

On Monday, Mr Barr authorised the Justice Department to investigate “substantial” allegations of voter irregularities and election fraud, though no widespread instances of that type of trouble exist.

In a memo to US lawyers, obtained by The Associated Press, Mr Barr wrote that investigations “may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual state”.

Election officials from both political parties have publicly stated that voting went well. International observers also confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

States have until 8 December to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results.

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Legal challenges have been dismissed in battleground states like Georgia and Wisconsin.

On Monday night, the Justice Department’s top prosecutor for election crimes, Richard Pilger, said he would step down from that post in response to the attorney general’s memo, according to an email he sent to colleagues and obtained by the AP.

Biden campaign lawyer Bob Bauer said Mr Barr’s memorandum authorising investigations “will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against”.

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Biden urges Americans to wear masks

Mr Biden pressed forward with plans to build his administration, assembling a team of experts to face the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

But the federal agency that needs to greenlight the beginnings of the transition of power held off on taking that step.

And the White House moved to crack down on those not deemed sufficiently loyal, such as Defence Secretary Mark Esper, as Mr Trump continued to refuse to concede the race.

Mr Trump remained out of sight at the White House, with conversations ongoing about how the defeated president would spend the coming days and weeks as he challenged the people’s verdict.

Joe Biden
Image:Joe Biden is due to be inaugurated in late January

The former reality TV star is not expected to formally concede but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term, according to several people around him.

The possibility of more campaign-style rallies are being discussed as Mr Trump tries to keep his supporters fired up despite his defeat. It was possible they would feature his family and prominent supporters, but not the president himself.

The removal of Mr Esper, the Pentagon chief, was expected by some aides to be the first of several firings by Mr Trump.

Others believed to now be vulnerable include FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA head Gina Haspel and infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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