Past and present employees at the Justice Department are questioning the motives of higher-ups who prematurely announced an investigation into discarded ballots in Pennsylvania, only to have to quickly walk back their story as more details become available.
According to a report from the Guardian, federal prosecutors jumped all over a story out of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, that an employee “incorrectly discarded” a handful of ballots in mid-September that led to a meeting between Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr. With the DOJ publically announcing the ballots were for Trump, that allowed to the president to turn it into a campaign issue even though the story fell apart within hours.
As the Guardian reports, "the Pennsylvania story federal prosecutors initially released turned out to be misleading and incomplete. Hours after releasing the statement, the DoJ removed it from its website and issued a revised statement saying that while investigators had recovered nine ballots, they could only determine that seven of them were cast for Trump. Later, the department released a third statement detailing some of the early findings of its investigation."
According to former DOJ employees, current officials were in violation of the department handbook by releasing investigation information that could impact an election.
That, in turn, led to accusations of political shenanigans in the department.
According to Barbara McQuade, who served as a US attorney in Michigan, "It is a violation of DoJ policy to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. By making an exception to that rule, the US attorney is creating the appearance that he is using his office to advance the political agenda of President Trump.”
Justin Levitt, a former top official in the justice department’s civil rights division, agreed saying an investigation was warranted, but officials went overboard in publicizing it.
“Minor mistake, fine for DoJ to follow up. Investigation seems unremarkable,” said Levitt, "Telling the White House is a problem. You don’t tell the White House about a pending investigation because political folks might misuse that info (exactly as they did).”
“You don’t do a press release on starting an investigation, you don’t do a press release with partial (and unconfirmed) facts, and you absolutely 100% no question don’t do a press release mentioning the candidate. There’s zero legit reason for that candidate information,” he elaborated.
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