Reports: Trump weighed firing attorney general to toss Georgia results
By Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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In his final days in office, President Donald Trump contemplated firing the acting attorney general, with hopes that his replacement would be willing to force Georgia lawmakers to block results showing Joe Biden won the state, according to reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The Times story, citing four unnamed former Trump administration officials, said Trump listened to a plan to oust the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replace him with another Justice Department attorney, Jeffrey Clark, who “had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians.”
Rosen had refused to take such steps, according to the reports. The Times wrote that other senior Justice officials had said they would resign if Trump tried to force the issue. Both publications said Trump dropped the idea following a meeting with officials.
The Post, citing one unnamed person, reported that White House counsel Pat Cipollone “pushed hard against a letter Clark wanted to send to Georgia state legislators, which wrongly asserted the department was investigating accusations of fraud in their state and Biden’s win should be voided, insisting it was based on a shoddy claim.”
Clark, the publication reported, denied devising a plan to oust Rosen and said, “My practice is to rely on sworn testimony to assess disputed factual claims.” He said, “There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president,” but suggested that others were “distorting any discussions.”
Before stepping down last month, Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the election’s outcome. Rosen, who was deputy attorney general, then became acting attorney general.
Trump had publicly and privately pressed for aggressive investigations into voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier on an audio recording of a conversation in which Trump unsuccessfully pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to help him “find” enough votes to overturn the Nov. 3 contest, which Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes.
In the recording, Trump refers to a “never-Trumper U.S. attorney there.”
It’s unclear if he was referring to Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the then-U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, a Republican whom Trump had appointed. The Wall Street Journal reported the White House forced Pak to resign because Trump thought he wasn’t being sufficiently aggressive in probing allegations of election fraud.
Pak’s replacement as acting U.S. attorney in the district, Bobby Christine, told staffers in a conference call that he dismissed two election fraud cases on his first day in the position, according to an AJC report based on a recording of the conversation.
“I would love to stand out on the street corner and scream this, and I can’t,” Christine said in the recording.
“But I can tell you I closed the two most — I don’t know, I guess you’d call them high profile or the two most pressing election issues this office has,” he said. “I said I believe, as many of the people around the table believed, there’s just nothing to them.”
On Saturday, in the wake of the Times and Post reports, a spokesman for Christine’s office told the AJC, “We aren’t providing any comment on those stories.”
He declined to comment on or confirm any active investigations, citing department policy.
Efforts by the AJC to reach Pak for comment on Saturday were unsuccessful.
On Saturday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., shared the link to the Times report and tweeted: “The Justice Dept Inspector General must launch an investigation into this attempted sedition now.”