Trump was reportedly contemplating holding an ally keen to contest the election outcomes answerable for the DOJ
In the final weeks of his presidency, former President Donald Trump attempted to reverse the results of the state election in Georgia by pressuring officials to find votes for him. And Trump's efforts went beyond that, according to a new New York Times report: he also considered replacing the acting US attorney general with another more sympathetic to his efforts to force a change in results in Georgia.
The Times’s Katie Benner reports that Trump and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department attorney in charge of the civil division, worked a plan under which the Justice Department worked to inappropriately keep Trump in office by replacing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen would have refused to follow Trump's attempts to undermine the election results – with Clark.
A number of DOJ officials, who were briefed on the plan via conference call on Jan. 3, threatened to resign if it did, according to the Times report. That threat, along with a controversial meeting with Rosen, Clark and Trump where every DOJ official took his case to the president, is said to have deterred Trump from replacing Rosen in the end.
But if Trump had acted, the Justice Department would likely have been embroiled in its efforts to overturn the elections and give such attempts a legitimacy and legal support that they lacked after failing dozen of lawsuits falsely alleging electoral irregularities.
A former Justice Department official called the effort to replace Rosen "an attempted coup in the Justice Department – instigated by the President of the United States" on Twitter Friday.
For his part, Clark has denied the existence of a plan to fire Rosen, telling the Times that he was merely giving advice to the president.
"My practice is to rely on affidavits to judge controversial allegations of fact," he said. “There was an open discussion with the President about options and advantages and disadvantages. It is regrettable that those who have been part of a privileged legal discussion would publicly comment on such internal considerations while distorting discussions. "
A change in the leadership of the DOJ would have been one of Trump's last attempts to overthrow the election. In addition to his unsuccessful legal challenges in battlefield states, Trump had previously tried to harness the power of the DOJ by asking Rosen to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, a company that makes voting machines and software and that has been the subject of false voting claims manipulation. The former president also called on the Justice Department to support his campaign's state claims and was denied.
Trump also urged Rosen to appoint special advisers to investigate rebutted allegations of electoral fraud, which Rosen refused. Rosen confirmed the findings of his predecessor, former Attorney General William Barr, that allegations of widespread electoral fraud were not supported by evidence.
And in one of the most shocking and brazen efforts, Trump called Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger to ask him to find enough votes to overcome President Joe Biden's tight profit margin in the state, even after two recounts confirmed it. That call reportedly came on the same day Trump had the newly uncovered conversations with DOJ officials.
Those efforts culminated in a rally in Washington, DC, on January 6th, where Trump reiterated his false claims about electoral irregularities – and stirred up a crowd that later stormed the U.S. Capitol and his second impeachment led.
Trump faces impeachment proceedings for his efforts to overthrow the election
Trump was indicted in the house on January 13th for alleged "incitement to rebellion". The impeachment proceedings also argue that Trump "betrayed his confidence as president" when he tried to force officials to support his efforts to overthrow the elections, as he reportedly did with Rosen. If found guilty in the Senate, Trump could be prevented from returning to public office.
On Friday, the Senate Chairs finally reached an agreement to begin that process on February 9th. This came after a debate about the start time. Democrats feared that starting the process immediately would delay the endorsement of many of Biden's government and cabinet officials, as well as Republicans should Trump have a longer time to prepare his defense.
The House will take the article to the Senate on Monday and the senators will be sworn in as a jury on Tuesday, but the oral hearings will not begin February 9, and leaders have signaled that they hope to get one by the end of this week To pass judgment.
By delaying the launch by two weeks, the Biden government will be able to prioritize Covid-19 aid and confirm cabinet positions, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Friday. And a spokesman for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said the delay gave Trump due process.
Trump has started assembling his defense team. His longtime attorney Rudy Giuliani, who spearheaded Trump's failed attempts to reverse the election results in court, will not be there. last week he said he could not stand up for witnessing the January 6 rally.
Instead, South Carolina attorney Karl "Butch" Bowers Jr. will lead Trump's legal team. Bowers works for a small company in Columbia, South Carolina, and has been described as a more measured figure than the bombastic Giuliani. Bowers previously successfully defended former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in his own impeachment hearing in 2009 after Sanford's extramarital affair came to light.
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