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CNN  — 

The Justice Department has made an exception to a 40-year policy that deterred federal prosecutors from announcing the launch of investigations during an election cycle when allegations of voter fraud are made, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The policy guidance is a repeat of information given by the head of the Public Integrity Section to all US attorneys this summer, the source said, but reiterating the loophole in an email – obtained by ProPublica – that pertains to investigations against postal workers and military personnel so close to Election Day is drumming up suspicions.

Millions of registered voters are opting to cast their ballots via mail this year because of the pandemic for different reasons, including to avoid crowding at polling sites. But for months, elected officials, especially President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr, have made public statements about mail-in voting conspiracy theories.

Barr has said the mail-in voting system would welcome fraudulent activity and invade a voter’s privacy. Barr also echoed Trump by encouraging voters to break the law and cast two ballots.

“This is anything but routine. DOJ has not in the history that I have known relaxed any rule in a way like this. It is giving a green light to impact the election,” said Anne Milgram, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Executives and other political leaders within the Justice Department were not aware of the memo, the source said.

“Career prosecutors in the Public Integrity Section of the Department’s Criminal Division routinely send out guidance to the field during election season,” Justice Department spokesman Matt Lloyd said. “This email was simply part of that ongoing process of providing routine guidance regarding election-related matters. No political appointee had any role in directing, preparing or sending this email.”