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Washington–Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and a group of their colleagues to send a letter to Corey R. Amundson, Chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, requesting an immediate explanation of the Department’s recent decision to weaken its longstanding policy of non-interference with elections, which ensures that election fraud investigations do not affect an upcoming election. The department has long recognized that public investigations of alleged election fraud can “interject[] the investigation itself as an issue” in an ongoing election, creating “the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities.” 

This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning that Russia is amplifying these claims to undermine trust in the electoral process.

Feinstein and Klobuchar was joined on the letter by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). 

“It is deeply troubling that the Department has chosen to weaken its non-interference policy weeks before Election Day and while millions of Americans have already voted, many of them by mail.” the senators said. 

“This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that Russia is amplifying these claims in an effort to undermine public trust in the electoral process.” 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below: 

October 20, 2020

Dear Mr. Amundson:

We request an immediate explanation of the Department’s recent decision to weaken its longstanding policy of non-interference with elections, which ensures that election fraud investigations do not affect an upcoming election.   

The Department has long recognized that public investigations of alleged election fraud can “interject[] the investigation itself as an issue” in an ongoing election, creating “the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities.” Department policy thus prohibits overt investigative steps in such cases “until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.” [Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses, p. 84]

The Department has reportedly announced an exception to this policy that would allow election fraud allegations to be publicly announced before the 2020 election if “the integrity of any component of the federal government is implicated by election offenses.”  The exception appears to encompass allegations of mail voting fraud, which the Department could now publicly announce while voting is underway. 

This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud.  The Department of Homeland Security has warned that Russia is amplifying these claims in an effort to undermine public trust in the electoral process.  

It is deeply troubling that the Department has chosen to weaken its non-interference policy weeks before Election Day and while millions of Americans have already voted, many of them by mail. We therefore ask that you provide the following information no later than October 23:

  1. What is the complete text of the new exception to the Department’s non-interference with elections policy?
  2. Why did the Department create this exception at this time?
  3. Who participated in the creation of the exception, including the decision to create it and the drafting process?
  4. How will the Department ensure that actions taken pursuant to the exception do not “chill[] legitimate voting and campaign activities” or jeopardize “the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship”? 
  5. How will the Department ensure that actions taken pursuant to the exception will not interfere with or disturb the delivery and counting of mail-in ballots?  

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. 

Sincerely,

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