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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Attorney General Bill Barr in St. Louis, Missouri, in October. Photo: Jeff Roberson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Richard Pilger, a Department of Justice official who oversees investigations of voting crimes, stepped down from his role Monday after Attorney General Bill Barr authorized U.S. attorneys to probe alleged elections fraud, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: President Trump has refused to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, alleging a conspiracy of widespread voting fraud, but he has yet to provide relevant evidence.

  • Pilger states to colleagues in an email, also obtained by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the new DOJ policy is "abrogating the forty-year old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigation in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested."

For the record: Pilger states, "Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications … I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch."

  • He has been director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Department of Justice since 2010 and will now "move to a nonsupervisory role working on corruption prosecutions," per the NYT.

Of note: Democrats have accused Barr of politicizing his role and of political interference in cases involving Trump associates — claims he strongly denies.

  • The DOJ did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden picks Merrick Garland for attorney general

Joe Biden touches Merrick Garland after President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in March 2016. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden announced Judge Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney general on Thursday, seeking to place in the nation's top law enforcement job a respected federal appeals judge whose Supreme Court nomination Republicans blocked five years ago.

Why it matters: News of the selection, first reported by Politico, came just hours after the country learned that Democrats would likely win both Senate runoff elections in Georgia and take control of the Senate, making it harder for Republicans to block nominations.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

Cuomo: "I am not going to resign"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday for acting in a way that made women feel "uncomfortable," but insisted that he has "never touched anyone inappropriately" and said he will not resign.

Driving the news: Cuomo reiterated in his first public appearance since sexual harassment allegations surfaced that he will fully cooperate with a team of independent investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, but suggested that demands for his resignation from were simply "politics."