WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to reverse his 2020 election defeat has brought the Justice Department to the brink of chaos, and threatened to resign there and top White House officials, a Senate Judiciary Committee report found.
The report, released Thursday by the Democratic-run committee, provided new insight into how the Republican incumbent tried to undo the vote and impose his will on the department, calling on leaders to declare the election “corrupt” and some Not even asked to humiliate his top official. reverse the results. Trump’s actions led to a near-rebellion at department headquarters, which only dwindled after senior officials warned of mass resignations, with a White House lawyer calling efforts to undo the election as a “murder-suicide pact.” described.
“In an attempt to enlist the DOJ for personal, political purposes in an attempt to maintain his hold on the White House, Trump grossly abused the power of the presidency” and arguably violated a federal law that mandates anyone Prohibits granting that federal employees engage in political activity. , says the report.
While the broad outline of what happened after the November 3 election has long been known, a Senate investigation based on a review of documents and interviews with former officials laid bare the extent of Trump’s entire campaign to remain in the White House. has gone. It shows how Trump benefited from the support of a little-known Justice Department attorney who supported the then-president’s efforts to challenge the vote, but in the end, how other senior officials stood together to face Trump. Happened. The result shows how dependent the US election system is on the integrity of government officials.
Trump’s effort, now the subject of a Justice Department inspector general investigation, did not succeed, and Biden took office on January 20. Still, the false claims on the election have left the nation fractured, with millions of Americans wrongly believing the contest was plagiarized.
Fury about the election forced a group of Trump supporters to violently storm the Capitol on January 6 to obstruct Congress’s certification of Biden’s victory. Rioters beat and bloodied an overwhelming police force, sending lawmakers running for their lives and causing $1 million in damages. More than 630 people have been criminally charged in the largest prosecution riot in Justice Department history.
Republicans, who have been mostly loyal to Trump since the rebellion, released their own report that downplayed concerns raised by Democrats and portrayed Trump as a hero, who rejected the suggestions of lawyer Jeffrey Clark. ignored, and who refused to fire top Justice Department officials. His rebuttal makes the surprising claim that Trump was concerned about the election system, not himself, even though he publicly fought to stay in office and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to help him.
The Democrats’ report chronicles Trump’s tireless effort during a turbulent stretch in December and early January to support his efforts to investigate suspected voter fraud and undo the results. Trump had laid the foundation for that effort even before the election when he attacked the vote-by-mail process.
But they escalated it significantly after Election Day, and especially after the December resignation of Attorney General William Barr, who, weeks before leaving the Justice Department, told the Associated Press that the department had not found fraud that could affect the outcome of the election. Could.
At a White House meeting for Senate investigators, Jeffrey Rosen, who served as Barr’s deputy and briefly headed the department after Barr’s departure, described how Trump, in an effort to launch an investigation into the department, The video showed “someone distributing a suitcase of ballots”. “
Rosen said he told Trump, “I really want to suggest to you, sir, respectfully, that it would be better for everyone to use the last month to focus on some of the things we’ve achieved in the last four years.” Years, one — tax reform and commentary, Operation Warp Speed, and not going into ‘the election was corrupt.’
The pressure campaign from Trump and his allies included a draft brief that the White House wanted the Justice Department to file with the Supreme Court to reverse the election results. The department declined to file the document, which the Senate report describes as a “litigation of false and debunked claims.”
The conflict culminated in a controversial, hours-long meeting at the White House on January 3 in which Trump openly considered replacing Rosen with Assistant Attorney General Clark as acting attorney general. The Democrats report that Trump told Rosen: “One thing we do know is that you, Rosen, are not going to do anything to reverse the election.”
Clark had positioned himself as more sympathetic to Trump’s forward-looking claims of fraud, even as the results were attested by state and Republican election officials. Courts rejected dozens of legal challenges to the election, and Trump’s own Attorney General Barr had said Biden won fairly.
Clark declined to be interviewed voluntarily by the committee, and his attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The committee said it is submitting a complaint to the District of Columbia Bar to assess whether discipline is necessary.
At the January 3 meeting, several officials told Trump that he would resign if Clark was put in charge of the Justice Department. According to witnesses interviewed by Senate committee majority staff, White House counsel Pat Cipollone referred to a draft letter from Clark asking Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on election results as a “murder-suicide pact”. was inspired to. Cipollone threatened to step down.
Rosen’s deputy at the time, Richard Donoghue, replied that there was “no chance” he would sign that letter or “anything remotely like that.” Donoghue told the committee that he told Trump that all assistant attorneys general, and probably U.S. attorneys and other senior department officials, would resign en masse if President Rosen was replaced with Clark.
The report said Georgia emerged as a particular area of focus for Trump, who sought the removal of BJ Pak, the top prosecutor in Atlanta, claiming he was “never a Trumper.” Pak had originally planned to remain in the post until Inauguration Day, January 20, but resigned weeks before that due to pressure from Trump.
In addition to Clark, Trump found another aide in Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., who has disputed the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania and called on Donoghue last December to say that the department is taking its stand with regards to the elections. was not working. Perry encouraged Donoghue to enlist Clark’s help because he’s “the kind of guy who can really get out there and do something about it,” the report said.