DOJ watchdog opens new probe into Trump's effort to overturn the election results

Inspector General of the Department of Justice is investigating whether DOJ officials acted on Trump’s behalf

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published January 25, 2021 8:37PM (EST)

Former President Donald Trump. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

A Justice Department watchdog is launching a probe to examine whether any former or current officials "engaged in an improper attempt" to overturn the results of the 2020 election on former President Trump's behalf. 

The Office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz made the announcement on Monday following Sen. Chuck Schumer's call on Horowitz to immediately begin looking into foul play within the department.

Schumer's request comes on the heels of two recent reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal detailing Trump's attempt to gather support from within the Justice Department to expedite his attempt to overturn the election. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, after the Texas Attorney General's lawsuit against four states that voted for Mr. Biden failed in early December, Mr. Trump began considering more aggressive options, and the internal "pressure" to go along with Trump's plan at the department "got really intense," according to an insider. 

Following former acting attorney Jeffrey A. Rosen's replacement of former Attorney General William Barr, Trump shortly pressured Rosen to have the Justice Department file its own lawsuit off the back of Paxton's failure. Mr. Trump pressured Rosen to assemble special counsels to investigate the alleged failures of Dominion's Voting Systems. However, when Rosen refused to go along with Trump plan, Mr. Trump reportedly began plotting to replace Rosen with former assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark. 

Clark had, in fact, been in Trump's pocket weeks before this. On one account, Clark drafted a letter –– which falsely alleged that the Justice Department was investigating voter fraud in Georgia –– and asked Rosen to send this letter to Georgia state officials, a move which might pressure the state to void Biden's victory. Mr. Clark also asked Mr. Rosen to authorize a news conference in which the Department of Justice would announce that it was seriously investigating widespread election fraud. Rosen shut down both Clark's letter and proposal for a presser.

On New Years Eve, Mr. Rosen and deputy attorney general Richard P. Donoughue called for a meeting with Mr. Clark, urging him to back down in his attempt to involve the Justice Department in the President's baseless election conspiracy. Nevertheless, Clark told his colleagues that he would "discuss his strategy with the president early the next week," just before the day of the election certification.

Shortly after, Mr. Clark told Mr. Rosen that the President intended to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark. After Mr. Clark made this pronouncement, Steven Engel, the head of the Justice Department's office of legal counsel, told the President that he and the remaining department officials would resign if the President fired Rosen. Miraculously, the President allowed Mr. Rosen to keep his post.

Clark, in response to the Inspector General's probe of the Justice Department, has maintained his innocence. "Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties," Clark told The Times. "All my official communications were consistent with law."


By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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