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U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty

16 assistant U.S. attorneys tasked with monitoring election misconduct urged Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday to retract a recent memo directing investigators to pursue allegations of "voting and vote tabulation irregularities” prior to the certification of election results, the Washington Post reported.

Why it matters: Barr’s move reverses longstanding Justice Department policy and critics condemned the memo for its political undertone which could fuel President Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread election fraud. Barr also faced internal criticism, as current and former DOJ officials told the Post they were concerned that he was trying to help the president cast doubt on the election outcome.

The state of play: In their letter to Barr, the federal prosecutors said they had not seen evidence of substantial abnormalities that required pre-certification investigation.

  • “The policy change was not based in fact,” the letter stated. The memo “thrusts career prosecutors into partisan politics.”
  • The signers were from 15 different federal court districts including: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Mexico, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa, Arkansas, south and northeaster New York, Kansas, California, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Two were from Oregon.

The other side: Asked about the letter, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec pointed to one section of the memo that said, “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election," the Post writes.

  • The memo did not provide evidence for Barr’s claims of voting irregularities.

Context: Barr has been characterized as a Trump ally in the past.

  • Richard Pilger, the DOJ’s top election crimes prosecutor, resigned Monday in protest of Barr’s policy change.
  • Earlier this week, a committee of officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its election partners refuted Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud and irregularities in a statement Thursday, calling the election "the most secure in American history."

Go deeper

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.