According to a new report in The New York Times, shortly before Congress officially certified the electoral college outcome and Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark “devised a plan” with then-President Trump “to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.” Clark composed a letter that he wanted Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators that “wrongly said that the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in their state, and that they should move to void Mr. Biden’s win there,” the Times adds.
The plan eventually included replacing Rosen with Clark, who would have carried out the then-president’s political wishes to use the Justice Department to spread lies about imaginary election fraud. According to the report from the Times, Trump only abandoned Clark’s plan after a nearly three hour meeting in the Oval Office involving Clark, then-acting Attorney General Rosen, then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and others. In a testament to Trump’s inept and self-centered approach to governing, two officials speaking to the Times “compared” the meeting to an episode of The Apprentice, the business-centered reality show that Trump led for years where participants made potentially high-stakes presentations to the eventual president, according to the publication.
Trump’s decision to leave Rosen in place was not apparently connected to any sort of concern on his part about issues like the rule of law. Instead, after top officials pledged to resign if Trump removed Rosen, the then-president concluded “that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud,” according to the Times description.
Pressed by the Times, Clark said that “Senior Justice Department lawyers” like himself often “provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” and he insisted that accounts of his remarks were not accurate. Specifically, he “categorically denied that he devised any plan to oust Mr. Rosen,” according to the Times, although Clark’s rhetoric could be merely intentionally distracting from the truth of what he did. His plan might not have focused on ousting Rosen, but the issues remain. At one point, according to the Times report, he apparently told Rosen and then-Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue “that he wanted the department to hold a news conference announcing that it was investigating serious accusations of election fraud,” a step that would have constituted a stunning takeover of the apparatus of the federal justice system for Trump’s agenda.
Rosen, for his part, replaced Bill Barr after the Trump administration’s last Senate-confirmed Attorney General left amidst Trump’s frenzied fight against the presidential election outcome.
Trump began his pressure on Rosen the day after the then-president announced that Barr would be leaving, hosting the incoming acting Attorney General for a meeting at the Oval Office, where the then-president advocated for legal briefs from the Justice Department in support of various lawsuits challenging the duly documented election outcome. According to the Times, Trump “also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems,” a voting and election management machine company that Trump and his allies alleged was involved in the imaginary nationwide election-rigging scheme that they claimed swung the election to Biden. No court anywhere in the country ever accepted this claim of systematic voter fraud.