By Linda So
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urged state and local election officials on Thursday to immediately provide the FBI any threatening communications they receive following a rise in threats against U.S. election administrators.
"To help us help you, I urge that you preserve and immediately provide to the FBI any threatening communications you receive in any form," Garland told a meeting of election officials that was also attended by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and senior Justice Department officials.
In late June, the DOJ launched a task force with the FBI to investigate threats against election workers.
"Our attention to this issue will not wane," said Garland, according to a transcript of his remarks. "The Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting violations of federal law against election officials and election workers, and to supporting your safety and security."
A Reuters investigation published on June 11 https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-trump-georgia-threats found that election workers and their families still face threats and intimidation months after former President Donald Trump's loss in November to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump continues to falsely claim that his defeat was the result of widespread voter fraud, an assertion that multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration rejected as unfounded.
The intimidation has been particularly severe in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other Republican election officials refuted Trump's stolen-election claims.
Following the report, Garland, a Biden appointee, acknowledged the rising threat to election workers in a June 11 speech https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/us-attorney-general-vows-aggressively-defend-voting-rights-2021-06-11 and said his Justice Department will aggressively protect voting rights at a time when many Republican-led states are tightening election laws.
(Reporting by Linda So; Editing by David Gregorio)