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Photo: Jeff Roberson - Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr has authorized U.S. attorneys to conduct investigations into alleged voter fraud if there are "clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities" that could change the outcome of a federal election in a particular state, AP first reported and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: President Trump has refused to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, alleging a conspiracy of widespread voting fraud and corruption by Democratic election officials. He has thus far not provided specific evidence for his claims, which have been shot down by both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state.

Between the lines: Barr, who has long been a target of criticism by Democrats who allege he has politicized the Justice Department, testified in June that he has "no reason to think" that the 2020 election will be rigged.

  • He has cast doubt on the reliability of mass mail-in ballots — baselessly claiming that foreign adversaries could sabotage the vote — but has cited "common sense" rather than any specific evidence of fraud.

What they're saying: “While it is imperative that credible allegations be addressed in a timely and effective manner, it is equally imperative that Department personnel exercise appropriate caution and maintain the Department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and non-partisanship," Barr wrote in a memo to U.S. attorneys.

  • "You are the most senior leaders in the United States Department of Justice and I trust you to exercise great care and judgment in addressing allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities."
  • "While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries."

What to watch: States have until Dec. 8 to settle controversies and disputes over elections, including recounts and lawsuits, before members of the Electoral College meet to vote on Dec. 14. The Trump campaign has requested a recount on Wisconsin and has filed dozens of lawsuits in battleground states.

Read Barr's memo.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.

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