World

Trump mounts legal assault as US AG authorises probes into polls fraud

US Attorney General tells prosecutors to look into 'substantial' allegations

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON:  President Donald Trump was yesterday scheduled to push ahead with legal challenges to the results of last week's election after US Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors to look into any "substantial" allegations of voting irregularities.

Mr Barr's directive to prosecutors prompted the top lawyer overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign in protest. It came after days of attacks on the integrity of the election by Mr Trump and Republican allies, who alleged voter fraud without providing evidence.

Mr Trump has not conceded the election to Democrat Joe Biden, who on Saturday secured more than the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to win the presidency.

The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits claiming the election results were flawed. Judges have tossed out lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia, and experts said Mr Trump's legal efforts have little chance of changing the election result.

Mr Barr told prosecutors on Monday that "fanciful or far-fetched claims" should not be a basis for investigation and his letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.

But he did say he was authorising prosecutors to "pursue substantial allegations" of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots.

Mr Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch, announced in an internal e-mail he was resigning from his post after he read "the new policy and its ramifications".

The previous Justice Department policy, designed to avoid interjecting the federal government into election campaigns, had discouraged overt investigations "until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded".

Mr Biden's campaign said Mr Barr was fuelling Mr Trump's far-fetched allegations of fraud.

"Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another," said Mr Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Mr Biden.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Trump's campaign filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Mr Biden's victory in the battleground state, where Mr Biden led by more than 45,000 votes.

It alleged the state's mail-in voting system violated the US Constitution by creating "an illegal two-tiered voting system" where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.

Professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles Jessica Levinson said the latest lawsuit in Pennsylvania was unlikely to succeed and "reads like a rehash of many of the arguments the Trump legal team has made in and outside the courtroom".

Mr Biden's team is considering legal action over a federal agency's delay in recognising his victory over Mr Trump.

The General Services Administration (GSA) recognises a presidential candidate when it becomes clear who has won so a transition of power can begin.

But that has not yet happened and the law does not spell out when the GSA must act. - REUTERS

WORLD