WASHINGTON — The Justice Department told federal prosecutors in an email early on Wednesday that the law allowed them to send armed federal officers to ballot-counting locations around the country to investigate potential voter fraud, according to three people who described the message.The email created the specter of the federal government intimidating local election officials or otherwise intervening in vote tallying amid calls by President Trump to end the tabulating in states where he was trailing in the presidential race, former officials said.- Advertisement – Mr. Donoghue, the No. 2 official in the office of the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, sent his email about half an hour before Mr. Trump made reckless claims including falsely declaring himself the winner of the election and began calling for election officials to stop counting ballots.“We want all voting to stop,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. He said, without offering details, that his campaign would “be going to the U.S. Supreme Court” over the election count. The Trump campaign said later in the day that it was filing lawsuits in multiple states, including Michigan, to halt or protest vote counts.One state election official vowed to resist any interference or intimidation efforts by federal officials.- Advertisement – “Elections are a state matter, and we have authority as state officials over anyone trying to enter locations where ballots are being counted,” said Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts. “Anything else is a radical reinterpretation of the law. States can handle elections, and we will ensure the people decide the outcome.”The election has been both unusual and charged. A historic number of mail-in ballots, prompted by the pandemic, have slowed the work of local election officials who tally them. And Mr. Trump has for months stoked fears about the integrity of the vote and amplified unfounded conspiracy theories that slow-counting states could not be trusted, intensifying his baseless accusations as the count stretched on past Election Day and his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., gained an edge in key states. A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.- Advertisement – A law prohibits the stationing of armed federal officers at polls on Election Day. But a top official told prosecutors that the department interpreted the statute to mean that they could send armed federal officers to polling stations and locations where ballots were being counted anytime after that.The statute “does not prevent armed federal law enforcement persons from responding to, investigate, or prevent federal crimes at closed polling places or at other locations where votes are being counted,” the official, Richard P. Donoghue, told prosecutors in an email that he sent around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Attorney General William P. Barr also spent the months leading up to Election Day echoing the president’s dark warnings, claiming without evidence that the wave of mail-in ballots would lead to an unprecedented amount of voter fraud.He cited one example of 1,700 falsified ballots that The Washington Post found to be false. A department spokeswoman blamed an inaccurate memo from an aide.The new legal interpretation about armed officials at vote-counting locations appeared to be another example of the attorney general mirroring Mr. Trump’s public posture, former Justice Department officials said.“This seems like a messaging tactic for the attorney general,” said Vanita Gupta, the acting head of the department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama. “Lawfully, the Justice Department can’t interfere in the vote count, enter polling places or take ballots, even in the course of an investigation.”In instances where the department can secure access to ballots for any investigation, Ms. Gupta said that federal law allowed law enforcement officials to “copy and inspect, but that ballots stay in the hands of local election officials.”Justice Department officials said this week that they expected lawyers for the Trump and Biden campaigns to take on court challenges related to the election, and that the Trump administration would have little, if any, role.Election experts said that any effort by the Justice Department to blatantly interfere in the election would immediately prompt legal challenges. Still, armed officials arriving at ballot-counting locations even for investigatory purposes could intimidate or otherwise disrupt the process, they warned.“The very strong, longstanding norm is that the federal government does not seek to do anything to interfere with a state’s ability to count votes and certify elections,” said Kristy Parker, an official in the department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration. – Advertisement –
There’s no shortage of stars out on the open market to fill up the 30-man over-the-top rope battle royale, that’s for sure. With a tear in my eye, I’m sad to announce that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have yet to sign, which likely amounts to them entering the MLB Rumble at 29 and 30, respectively. My money’s on Manny.(Can you tell I’m ready for spring training?)Double: imMOrtalIn the words of Carly Simon, nobody does — or did — it better.There’s no doubt that Mariano Rivera is one of the all-time greats. Or, at least, there shouldn’t be. What Mo accomplished over his career isn’t up for debate, even with the way that mindsets have shifted regarding closers and relievers in baseball.But garnering the accolades and records Rivera did while using essentially one pitch his entire career — and he was successful more than 600 times doing it — well, that’s special. There isn’t a stat in Rivera’s career that hasn’t been covered at this point that truly defines his greatness.Baseball is an emotional game that is often defined in moments. Whether it was Rivera collapsing on the mound after Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS or how calm and cool he was after the 602nd save of his career, there’s no shortage of moments to choose from.MORE: Five crazy stats from Mariano’s Hall of Fame careerMy favorite Rivera moment, however, was the day he was pulled out of his final game by Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter. Seeing Rivera break down on Pettitte’s shoulder for a good 15 seconds while Yankee Stadium gave him a standing ovation still gives me goosebumps. It was as if all the emotion that he didn’t show for his entire MLB career came rushing to him in that moment, and he just let it all out in front of 40,000 people.I was a little surprised he went in unanimously — not that he didn’t deserve it, but writers often play the game of, “Well, he’s going to get in regardless, so I can use this vote elsewhere.” I don’t think writers should worry about that anymore. Just vote for who you think is best. And there was no one better at what he did than Mariano Rivera.Single: Whit Merrifield’s new dealAll signs point toward Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield getting a new deal from Kansas City, and it’s got me scratching my head.According to reports, the deal is worth somewhere in the $16.25 million range with an option for a fifth year that could bring the deal up to $30 million. Still, the roughly $4 million a year that Merrifield is scheduled to make is a big-time bargain for Kansas City in the coming years.Merrifield is 30 now, so he’s not as young as you may think, but his skill set isn’t one that screams deterioration or degradation in a year. In fact, he was second in major league fWAR for second basemen in 2018, behind Javier Baez (5.3 fWAR opposed to Merrifield’s 5.2), and he’s fourth in fWAR among second baseman since 2017 with 8.1, behind Jed Lowrie, José Ramirez and José Altuve.MORE: Ranking the top 79 free agentsMerrifield has improved in the past two seasons, and being that he’s not due for free agency until 2022, this seems like a big bargain for the Royals.Kansas City didn’t necessarily have to pay Merrifield this money, given what arbitration might dictate, but the question has to be asked: If Merrifield hit the open market this season, how much would he get, both in years and value? Presumably more than the contract he’s been offered. Even with an act of good faith on Kansas City’s part, it’s hard to see how Merrifield isn’t worth at absolute minimum $5 million a year. Really, it all stems back to the incredibly slow-moving free agent market for the second year in a row. The MLB Players’ Association showed a pulse recently, speaking out against the slowness of the market and how it’s a detriment to the game.You think?Pinch TwittersAre you even slightly aggravated at the lack of competitive balance in baseball? Is it really fair the big market teams can always spend big in free agency, while smaller markets are kind of screwed? (#TouchEmAllJoe )— Grant Baker (@Grantbaker34) January 24, 2019This is a loaded question, because I think there are ways to build through drafts and farm systems and make smart moves to supplement the core of a team (see: 2015 Royals, even-year Giants).But on the other side, teams like the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox will always have a tremendous advantage with the way they spend. I think there’s an answer for this.I’m not sure a salary cap helps — I think a salary floor is more likely to help than not. Forcing teams and front offices to spend money, rather than pocketing money, and devoting it back into their team will sort out the real, in-the-blood baseball owners from the guys just wanting to make money. It’s a business, after all, but you can’t sell the average fan that Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel, José Iglesias or Mike Moustakas — all free agents — won’t help their favorite teams right now.any chance kimbrel goes back to Boston on a 1 year deal? #TouchEmAllJoe— andy miller (@mikewichter) January 24, 2019I would be as surprised as I was to see Nia Jax enter the men’s Royal Rumble on Sunday night if that were to happen. We know Kimbrel wanted a six-year deal — he won’t get that — but it’s hard to see him settle for a one-year deal instead. With most relievers on the market getting two-plus years this offseason, it would be a shock to see Kimbrel get any less than that.Which methodology do you prefer for the hall of fame, baseball which may be to exclusive, or football which except for wide receivers may be too inclusive?— William Hawkins (@BillyTwoBagger) December 13, 2018It’s a difficult question to answer, because on a year-by-year basis the Hall of Fame is wishy-washy. We’ve had a ton of deserving candidates flood the ballots in the past few seasons, and we’ll likely not see big classes of four or more again for a while, so it may make it seem like baseball is uber inclusive, but I don’t really think it is. My opinion on the Hall of Fame changes day by day; some days I’m a Small Hall guy, and others I say let ’em all in.I think the best approach is to not compare against other players already in — “If Player X is in, then Player Y should be in” is a bad argument, because it’s unfair to place other writers’ votes on the shoulders of a guy who didn’t vote for those players who are already in, if that makes sense.When you see the ballot, you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. The numbers matter, absolutely, but you also have to put context behind those numbers. I’m a little old school in believing the eye-test matters, too — not everyone is going to hit the magic numbers (3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI and so forth), but if a player comes up short but you know or believe in your heart of hearts he belongs? Then vote for him. Just be prepared to defend your vote.John C. on Twitter says: Now that Mo’s in, everybody asks about Jeter and if he’ll be unanimous too. How much — if at all — has his time during Marlins owner hurt his candidacy?I don’t think it does, or at least it shouldn’t. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Derek Jeter is going to be a unanimous selection, anyway: He was a really bad defender by advanced metrics; his last five seasons he didn’t amount to 5 bWAR (finished at 4.9 bWAR). Jeter finished his career with 72.4 bWAR. By the way, Larry Walker finished his with 72.7 bWAR — in 759 fewer games. MORE: The case for Larry Walker in CooperstownJeter means a lot more to Yankees fans than he does to other baseball fans. If I may be allowed to make a sweeping generalization, it feels as though fans respect him and appreciate that he was a beacon of class and integrity for 20 years and was the consummate professional. But the spotlight of New York and being an anchor of five championship teams strengthen his case.Was Jeter a great player? Yes. Is he a slam-dunk, no-brainer, unanimous Hall of Famer? Not quite. I think voters understand that and will weigh everything accordingly. Touch ‘Em All, Joe is a weekly column from SN’s Joe Rivera, who discusses his MLB stream of consciousness and fields questions and comments from trusty Twitter users.If you had to pick 30 MLB players for a Royal Rumble, who would they be? @JoeRiveraSN as the only member of the BBWAA that follows me on Twitter I gotta ask you-Does Larry Walker deserve an HOF vote?— Grant Baker (@Grantbaker34) January 23, 2019In a word, yes. He was an above-average defender his entire career, his home/road splits are wide but not detrimentally so — he was still an .800 OPS player on the road. A career 141 OPS+ player has to mean something, too.I think Walker is unfairly penalized for the ballpark in which he played most of his games (Coors Field in Denver), and that’s not right. Take, for example, his 1997 MVP year: Walker was just as good on the road as he was at home. For Walker to have performed the way he did, consistently, for 17 years means he should be in the Hall of Fame. I think he gets in next year, if the late rush this year means anything.