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Attorney General Bill Barr Directly Implicated in Discarded Ballot Chaos Amplified by Trump and White House

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: Attorney General William Barr looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks as he participates in a roundtable with law enforcement officials in the State Dining Room of the White House, June, 8, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Attorney General Bill Barr “personally briefed” President Donald Trump about the already controversial Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into a handful of previously discarded military mail-in ballots that were recovered in Pennsylvania, an official from the DOJ told ABC News Friday.

Trump and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany amplified those claims. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office overseeing the investigation released a public statement on the investigation that required almost immediate revision due to factual errors.

According to the ABC report, the personal briefing with Barr took place just prior to Trump going on air for an interview with Fox News Radio where he erroneously touted the investigation as vindicating his false claims about mail-in voting being easily susceptible to widespread fraud.

“These ballots are a horror show,” Trump said during the interview Thursday. “They found six ballots in an office yesterday in a garbage can. They were Trump ballots — eight ballots in an office yesterday in — but in a certain state and they were — they had Trump written on it, and they were thrown in a garbage can.”

During Thursday’s White House press briefing, McEnany also insinuated that the DOJ investigation substantiated Trump’s claims that Democrats were trying to steal the election.

“I can confirm for you that Trump ballots, ballots for the president were found in Pennsylvania,” McEnany said. “I believe you should be getting more information on that shortly. Here in the last 24 hours, they were found cast aside.”

According to the report, Barr was made aware of the investigation in Luzerne County after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania “sought guidance” from Main Justice on what steps to take going forward.

The eventual response was severely bungled. In a pair of statements that were resoundingly criticized by election law experts as “wildly improper,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office initially declared that all nine of the recovered ballots “were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

Matt Wolking, the deputy director of communications and rapid response with the Trump campaign, widely circulated the announcement, writing in a now-deleted tweet that “100% of [the ballots] were cast for President Trump” and adding that “Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

Rudy Giuliani’s initial tweet on the matter is still up as of Friday afternoon. The tweet says all discarded ballots were in favor of Trump.

He also used the discarded ballot announcement to accuse Democrats of perpetrating a voting fraud “epidemic.”

But minutes after Trump repeated those claims to a gaggle of reporters as “evidence of a whole big scam,” the department began walking back its claims, saying only seven of the nine ballots were cast for the sitting president.

Further investigation has yet to reveal foul play.

“It was explained to investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absentee and mail-in ballot requests are so similar, that the staff believed that adhering to the protocol of preserving envelopes unopened would cause them to miss such ballot requests. Our interviews further revealed that this issue was a problem in the primary election–therefore a known issue–and that the problem has not been corrected,” U.S. Attorney David Freed wrote Thursday evening in a letter to county election officials.

[image via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.