WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) told prosecutors early Wednesday that armed federal agents are allowed in ballot counting centers to investigate possible voter fraud, The New York Times reported.
Three people who described the message told The NY Times that the 1:30 am email from Richard Donoghue said the law that bans armed federal authorities from being at the polls on Election Day does not apply to polling stations and locations that are counting ballots after that day.
In the email, the principal associate deputy attorney general stated, “The law does not prevent armed federal law enforcement persons from responding to, investigate, or prevent federal crimes at closed polling places or at other locations where votes are being counted”.
Former officials told the newspaper that the email allegedly “seemed like an apparent way to intimidate local election officials or intrude on ballot counting and just another way Attorney General William Barr was following President Donald Trump’s public comments”.
Vanita Gupta, the acting head of the department’s Civil Rights Department under President Barack Obama, told the daily that the “DOJ can’t legally interfere in the vote count, enter polling places or take ballots, even in the course of an investigation”.
“At most, federal officials can copy and inspect, but ballots stay in the hands of local election officials”, she noted.
Donoghue’s email came about an hour before Trump spoke early Wednesday morning, in which he started calling for officials to stop counting votes in states where he was clearly leading. The Trump campaign on Wednesday filed lawsuits in several states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, as more ballots were counted, with instances of over 100,000 votes sent by mail going to Biden and not a single one to Trump.
The 2020 election brought in an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. Officially, this is due to the coronavirus pandemic, delaying the counting and results from several states and leaving the results of the presidential election up in the air. For months, Trump has been warning about mail-in ballots fraud.