Jason Dunn, Colorado’s Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, was alarmed by the baseless election-fraud rhetoric from the former president’s 2020 campaign, especially when it came to the erroneous claims of malfeasance about Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems.
“Any candidate is entitled to pursue challenges in the legal system,” Dunn told The Colorado Sun last week.
But after “dozens and dozens of courts had rejected those challenges” from Donald Trump’s election lawyers, including Coloradan Jenna Ellis, “the rhetoric became concerning.”
“I became particularly concerned when it got to the point where members of the public were attacking a Colorado company, Dominion Voting, who by all accounts had done everything right, provided excellent election security across the country,” said Dunn, who is stepping down on Feb. 28 to make way for a replacement chosen by President Joe Biden. “It even got to the point where employees of Dominion were being threatened with violence and harm.”
Dunn’s comments are notable because he’s not the only member of Trump’s Department of Justice who raised or is raising big concerns over baseless claims the 2020 president election results were fraudulent. Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, abruptly resigned after the election amid Trump’s questioning of the results in that state.
Dunn, a conservative former election attorney, said he never considered resigning, but he did share stories on Twitter disputing claims of widespread election fraud in an effort to combat the misinformation.
Also, despite some state Republicans calling Colorado’s election results into question, Dunn says he is confident there was no major malfeasance that would have changed the outcome of any races.
“For anyone to claim there was any question about the results in Colorado is really not being honest with the public,” he said.
As for Dominion, he’s confident in them, too.
People vote by dropping off their ballots in the final day before Election Day in Denver, CO, November 2, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)
“I’ve seen no evidence of any credibility that their systems that were used around the country performed anything other than as they were supposed to,” Dunn said. “I know for a fact that the FBI even looked into some of the reports about questions about their machinery and that there was nothing suspicious found.”
The Sun also spoke to Dunn about his term as Colorado’s top federal prosecutor, a job he has held since he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October 2018. Here’s what we learned:
More Coloradans will face charges in connection with the U.S. Capitol riot
Dunn’s office has played a big role in helping to prosecute Coloradans who traveled to Washington, D.C., and entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during the deadly riot there.
Dunn said the Denver Division of the FBI has been helping to arrest people connected to the riot and then his office has run local detention hearings before handing off the cases to federal prosecutors based in Washington, D.C.
A number of Coloradans have been federally charged in connection with the mob. And Dunn says prosecutors aren’t finished.
“There’s more to come, for sure,” Dunn said, declining, however, to say how many more Coloradans will be arrested.
Why federal prosecutors ultimately charged the Planned Parenthood shooter
Dunn says in the aftermath of the deadly 2015 attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, federal prosecutors declined to bring charges against the admitted gunman, Robert Lewis Dear Jr.
Dear was already facing dozens of counts in state court for killing three people, including a University of Colorado Colorado Springs Police Department officer, and wounding many others.
But by the time Dunn became U.S. attorney, the case against Dear had been stalled for years because of the killer’s incompetency to stand trial.
“I was actually speaking at a law enforcement memorial soon after I’d taken this office and Rachel Swasey, the widow of police Officer Garrett Swasey, said ‘you’ve got to help us. We can’t get any progress and it’s like being in purgatory because the case is stuck,’” Dunn said.
That conversation drove him to pursue federal charges against Dear, whose cases in the state and federal court systems are pending.
Dunn says he is hopeful the federal case will eventually be resolved, even if that resolution may still be quite a while away. “I don’t think it’s going to be something soon, but I don’t think it’s going to drag on like it was in the state process. We’ve had some progress lately,” he said.
Coronavirus posed big challenges for federal prosecutors in Colorado
Just like most employers, Dunn’s office had to scramble to adapt when the coronavirus crisis reached the U.S. last year. And that came on the heels of the longest federal government shutdown in the nation’s history between December 2018 and January 2019, which tested federal prosecutors in Colorado, too.
“It’s been probably the most challenging U.S. attorney term in the history of office,” he said. “And through all of that the people of our office have performed just extraordinarily well.”
The U.S. Department of Justice frowns on employees working from home, which made the pandemic particularly difficult for Dunn’s office to deal with. Printing outside of the office, for example, is forbidden by the agency’s policy.
“We had all kinds of staff who didn’t have ways to communicate so we had to buy 60 iPhones,” Dunn said.
Dunn made tackling the opioid epidemic a focus
Dunn says one of his biggest focuses during his tenure as U.S. attorney was tackling the opioid epidemic, the synthetic opioid fentanyl in particular.
Fentanyl, which is said to be 100 times more potent than morphine, has driven Colorado’s overdose deaths upward in recent years. To catch people selling the drug, Dunn said his office has routinely pursued charges for distributing narcotics resulting in death.
An agent holds a bag of fentanyl powder seized by the DEA. (Provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration)
“The great thing about it is we can go to someone and say, ‘look, you distributed drugs to this person. You told them it was an oxycodone pill you stole from your doctor and in fact you got it from a higher up drug dealer and you knew it was actually just fentanyl and they died. We can charge you with an overdose resulting (in death) and get a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence or you can tell us where you got it,’” Dunn said.
That “tool,” as Dunn calls it, has allowed his office to send a message to drug dealers and pursue charges against networks of criminals.
“We can use that hammer all the way up the chain,” he said.
Colorado “is not immune from the threat” of Chinese espionage
Dunn said one of the biggest threats facing Colorado under the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement is foreign, not domestic.
“People think, ‘jeez, there’s Chinese espionage here in Colorado?’” Dunn said. “There is. It’s one of the biggest threats to the American economy over the next decade.”
Colorado is a target because of its higher education institutions, technology companies, aerospace sector and defense industry.
“I can’t talk about specifics,” Dunn said when asked if any Colorado institutions or businesses have been affected by Chinese espionage, “but I will say that Colorado is not immune from the threat.”