KEY POINTS

  • Pilger resigns after Barr calls for more probes 
  • Barr criticized by Pilger for jumping the gun 
  • Handful of states are just starting to count mail-ins

Richard Pilger stepped down as head of the Justice Department 's election crimes division after his boss, Attorney General William Barr, called for more investigations into voting fraud allegations coming from President Donald Trump.

Pilger submitted his letter Monday night shortly after Barr's announcement, which followed nearly three days  of growing cries of foul from Trump and top Repubilcan leaders in Washington. TheDemocratic challenger Joe Biden unseated the one-term president by winning Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes over the weekend, pushing him past the magic total of 270. 

In his letter,  Pilger wrote: “Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications … I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch,” NBC News reported.

Only hours earlier, Barr told U.S. attorneys in a letter that more investigations could move forward “if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State,” the Associated Press reported.

The attorney general made clear that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” shouldn't be pursued. 

Pilger criticized Barr for ignoring a 40-year precedent of not interfering in the election process until after all votes have been counted. A handful of states, such as New York, only started counting absentee ballots on Monday. 

Trump’s lawyers have suggested -- without providing evidence -- that Democrats rigged the election -- and have filed lawsuits in at least five states that challenge the vote counting.

Biden attorney Bob Bauer brushed off the lawsuits, but took Barr to task for his letter.

It is “deeply unfortunate that Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against, Bauer told the AP in a statement. 

Barr has been forthright about his support of the president, but Justice Department officials told CNN on condition of anonymity that Trump didn't ask the attorney general to issue the memo.

Other Trump loyalists who want more investigations into election fraud include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer,  who has focused his attention on Pennsylvania.

States have until Dec. 8 to address any election disputes. Members of the Electoral College vote Dec. 14. US Attorney General William Barr leaves after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington US Attorney General William Barr leaves after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington Photo: AFP / Brendan SMIALOWSKI