In the effort led by President Trump to create a misleading impression of widespread voter fraud, administration and campaign officials have seized on nine mail-in military ballots in a Pennsylvania county that Mr. Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
Federal officials have disclosed that they are investigating whether local elections officials improperly discarded the ballots, at least seven of which were cast for Mr. Trump, they said. A Justice Department official said on Friday that Attorney General William P. Barr briefed Mr. Trump this week on the case.
The disclosure of the investigation’s existence was highly unusual and came as Mr. Trump has ramped up his false assertions that widespread mail-in voting is rife with fraud. It prompted elections and legal experts to express fears that political appointees were using the levers of law enforcement to undermine voters’ confidence in the results of the election.
“There is a battle here about the narrative in fraud and voting, and it looks like there’s a continued effort to gather as much evidence as possible to give them any little scraps for that narrative,” said Samuel W. Buell, a criminal law professor at Duke University School of Law.
Regardless of Mr. Barr’s intentions in briefing Mr. Trump, Mr. Buell said, the attorney general and the president discussing an ongoing criminal investigation created a perception that they might be acting improperly, especially because the situation involved such a small number of ballots in a state where six million people are expected to vote. [Continue reading…]