It was absolutely clear that Trump was frustrated that former Attorney General William Barr – who had done everything else to support Trump – refused to use the DOJ to aid Trump’s legal team in their unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud. There is no need to speculate, because Trump said it openly. Barr refused to participate, telling reporters that the department had found no evidence of fraud. As a result, Barr resigned in mid-December, and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen took over the role of the incumbent AG.
As the New York Times reports, Trump immediately pressured Rosen to interfere in the few remaining steps before the electoral college votes were counted. The day after Barr’s departure, Trump called Rosen into the White House. Trump urged Rosen to announce that he is appointing special advisers to deal with election fraud, one focusing on the unsupported claims – and downright lies – that Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell had made about Dominion Voting Systems. And Trump urged Rosen to do what Barr refused to do and file legal documents in support of the lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team.
When Rosen refused, Trump kept pushing. He called Rosen repeatedly. He called him back to the White House and confronted him several times. Trump complained that the Justice Department “did not fight hard enough for him” and urged Rosen to understand why DOJ lawyers did not support the “evidence” presented by Giuliani and Powell.
But when Rosen continued to refuse, Trump walked around him to work with Clark. According to the Times report, Clark told Trump that he agreed that there had been fraud affecting the election results. Clark tried to pressure his bosses at the DOJ to hold a new conference to announce that they are “investigating serious allegations of election fraud.” But Rosen also refused to follow Clark.
While Trump and Clark worked together, much of the attention focused on Georgia, where Trump complained that U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung Pak, was also not tough enough to defend Trump. In the conversation in which Trump tried to threaten the Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger complained about Pak. DOJ officials warned Pak that Trump was “fixated” on forcing his office to go along with his plans. This led to Pak’s resignation just a day before the January 6 uprising.
While Trump pushed Raffensperger forward, Clark continued to try to force Rosen to act for Trump. Clark designed In a mistakenly named letter, the DOJ investigated electoral fraud in Georgia and tried to get Rosen to send it to state lawmakers. Rosen refused to follow the plan again, and on New Years Eve, Rosen and Assistant Attorney General Richard Donoghue met with Clark to inform him that his actions were wrong.
Instead of backing off, Clark went back to Trump. He met with Trump over the weekend and then came back to tell Rosen what they had decided. Trump and Clark came up with a plan in which Trump would replace Rosen with Clark. Clark would then use the DOJ to prevent Congress from counting the results of the electoral college. Clark not only explained this plan to Rosen, but offered Rosen to stay as his Deputy.
Rosen refused to participate and requested a meeting with Trump. But what kept Trump and Clark’s plan from moving forward was not a temporary decline in sanity or decency on Trump’s part. Instead, it did so as Rosen was preparing to meet with Trump Raffensperger had recorded his conversation with Trump. Hearing Trump’s direct efforts to force the Georgian Foreign Minister to find votes and Trump’s threats about what would happen if Raffensperger didn’t go along with it, apparently enough spikes stiffened among the DOJ’s second-tier officials, a whole Group threatened to resign if Rosen was removed. The “Clark Plan” decided by the group would “Seriously harm the ministry, government and the rule of law. “
That same evening, Rosen, Donoghue and Clark met at the White House with Trump, White House attorney Pat Cipollone, and other lawyers. Cippollone made it clear to Trump that pulling the Clark Plan trigger would not only create havoc in the Justice Department, but it would also result in a major backlash from Congress, including an investigation.
After nearly three hours of arguing, Trump reluctantly withdrew to fire Rosen and use the DOJ to crush the election.
But it came so close. If the phone call with Georgian officials had not been cleared, if Rosen had not been able to garner support from his MPs, if Trump had simply ignored Cippollone and ordered Clark to move on … what would have happened next is everyone’s guess .
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