U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr authorizes election probes despite lack of evidence of fraud
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Trump within his rights to question election result
U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has authorized federal prosecutors across the country to pursue "substantial allegations" of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite a lack of evidence of fraud.
Barr's action comes days after Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and raises the prospect that Trump will use the Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome. It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is formally certified.
Trump has not conceded the election and is instead claiming without evidence that there has been a widespread, multi-state conspiracy by Democrats to skew the vote tally in Biden's favour.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Monday that Trump is "100 per cent within his rights" to question election results and consider legal options.
The Republican leader's remarks, his first public comments since Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, come as Trump's allies on Capitol Hill have been reluctant to congratulate Biden or push the president to accept the outcome.
McConnell said the process will play out and "reach its conclusion."
"We have the system in place to consider concerns and President Trump is 100 per cent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options," McConnell said as he opened the Senate on Monday.
Before addressing the Senate, McConnell met privately with Barr.
New lawsuit filed
Hours after McConnell's comments, Trump's campaign filed a lawsuit alleging Pennsylvania's mail-in voting system "lacked all of the hallmarks of transparency and verifiability that were present for in-person voters."
The lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to stop state officials from certifying Biden's victory in the state.
Previous lawsuits filed by the campaign in Michigan and Georgia were dismissed.
Biden cleared the threshold of 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency on Saturday after four days of ballot counting. He holds a sizeable lead in multiple battleground states, and there has been no indication of enough improperly counted or illegally cast votes that would shift the outcome.
In fact, election officials from both political parties have publicly stated the election went well, though there have been minor issues that are typical in elections, including voting machines breaking and ballots that were miscast and lost.
International observers see no fraud
International observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) said Monday in a report that they saw no instances of fraud or voting irregularities in the election.
The delegation included 28 experts and observers from 13 countries who observed the election process in in Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and the District of Columbia. COVID-19 prevented a broader coalition of experts.
The delegation said election day was peaceful, although there were efforts to intimidate poll workers as the votes were counted, and said the country's mail-in ballots were a secure system.
The report says the OAS supports "the right of all contesting parties in an election, to seek redress before the competent legal authorities when they believe they have been wronged."
"It is critical however, that candidates act responsibly by presenting and arguing legitimate claims before the courts, not unsubstantiated or harmful speculation in the public media," the OAS said.
WATCH | Republicans back Trump's unfounded claims of election faud:
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the Republicans' refusal to stand by the election results is "extremely dangerous, extremely poisonous to our democracy."
Schumer said election lawsuits can be valid, but they must be based in evidence and facts.
"Joe Biden won the election fair and square," he said.
In a memo to U.S. attorneys, obtained by The Associated Press, 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."
States have until Dec. 8 to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results. Members of the Electoral College meet Dec. 14 to finalize the outcome.
With files from Reuters