Despite Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump continued to make baseless claims of voter fraud in an apparent attempt to undermine the results and the will of the American people. American Oversight is investigating actions by local and federal officials that promoted these unfounded allegations and in the process impeded democracy.
Major news outlets projected Biden as the winner less than a week after the election, and the result has been confirmed by multiple state audits, the Electoral College, and Congress. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) posted a statement from election officials and private-sector partners on Nov. 12 announcing that the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history” and that there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” On Nov. 17, CISA chief Chris Krebs shared a link on his official Twitter account to a separate letter from dozens of outside election security experts denouncing false claims of fraud. Trump fired Krebs in a tweet that evening, prompting Krebs’ deputy, Matthew Travis, to resign.
But the voter-fraud fear-mongering hasn’t just been coming from the White House. Just a few days after Biden was projected as the winner, then-Attorney General William Barr issued a memo that authorized federal prosecutors to pursue any “substantial allegations” of election irregularities — in apparent support of Trump’s unfounded claims. The directive, a departure from longstanding Justice Department policy prohibiting such overt investigations before official election results are certified, drew fierce criticism from career prosecutors
Barr’s promotion of false claims about the dangers of voting by mail in the month before the election also drew scrutiny. We submitted Freedom of Information Act requests seeking directives about election fraud investigation sent to U.S. attorneys in the run-up to and the immediate days after the election. We’re also seeking Justice Department officials’ communications with external entities about such investigations, including with conservative legal activist Leonard Leo.
American Oversight is also keeping an eye on state-level election interference. We submitted requests to the offices of select state legislators in Wisconsin and Arizona who have called for investigations — also without evidence of serious irregularities — into their states’ election results. We’re seeking those legislators’ communications with Trump’s reelection campaign and legal team, the White House, Senate Republicans, and voting-restriction groups such as the Public Interest Legal Foundation. We’ve also filed a records request with Georgia’s secretary of state for post-election communications between state officials and voting-restriction activists.
American Oversight has long been looking into potential attempts to undermine election confidence through our State Accountability Project, investigating the efforts of anti-voter organizations and state fraud “task forces” that do more to promote false narratives about fraud than they do to promote democratic participation. Our legal efforts on this front compelled Georgia to release thousands of pages of related records, and other litigation is ongoing.
Efforts to cast doubt on the election results not only defy democratic norms that are the bedrock of our system; they threaten its continued operation by delaying a lawful transition of power. We will continue to hold public officials accountable and demand transparency during this unprecedented period of electoral obstructionism.