Jeffrey Bossert Clark
commons.wikimedia.org

The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report today detailing the plot by Trump and his goons to use the Justice Department to overturn the election. Actually, the Committee released two reports: one from the Democrats that laid out what happened in excruciating detail, and one from Republicans, saying LOL, no harm no foul. We'll be concentrating on the Dem report, because that's the one with all the actual facts, but God willin' and the crick don't rise, we hope to get back to the minority report, because that is some hilariously weak shit.

Most of what's in the real report, based on interviews with former (acting) Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and former US Attorney in Atlanta BJ Pak, has appeared in the media before. We knew that the Trump White House, most particularly Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, engaged in an extended pressure campaign to get the Justice Department to look into — and, more importantly, announce investigations of — non-existent election fraud in key swing states. We knew that this pressure continued long after those nonsensical allegations had been thoroughly debunked. We knew that Jeffrey Clark, acting head of the DOJ's Civil Division, attempted to stage a coup inside the DOJ with the aim of getting himself made acting Attorney General so that he could instruct swing states to decertify their electors. We knew that Trump tried to get the DOJ to sue the states on the basis of his nonsensical election fraud claims. And we knew that it was only thanks to concerted resistance by his own consiglieres that we avoided a major constitutional crisis.

But seeing it all woven together into a coherent narrative is really breathtaking. Particularly juxtaposed against reminders of just how seriously this violated DOJ norms and stated White House policy intended to insulate the Justice Department from political interference.


Because it wasn't Democrats who said, "The White House may communicate with DOJ about matters of policy, legislation, budgeting, political appointments, public affairs, intergovernmental relations, administrative matters, or other matters that do not relate to a particular contemplated or pending investigation or case." It wasn't Barack Obama who limited contacts between the White House and the Justice Department to the President, Vice President, Counsel to the President, and Deputy Counsel to the President on the one end, and the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, or Solicitor General at the other. That was Trump's first White House Counsel Don McGahn, in an all-staff memo issued on January 27, 2017.

So when you see Rep. Jim Jordan shouting about insubordination at the DOJ because it refused to go along with Mark Meadows' order to investigate allegations that an Italian Space Laser stole the election, it's critical to understand that he's retconning a gross violation of longstanding policy meant to ensure the Justice Department's independence. And when you see that Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Civil Division, was having meetings with Trump behind acting AG Jeffrey Rosen's back and also conferring with Trump campaign attorneys, it's important to appreciate that this was the real act of gross insubordination and ethical impropriety.

With all that said, let's focus on a few particularly hair-raising details from the report.

On December 28, Clark, who had been secretly meeting with Trump and cahootsing with Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, sent acting AG Rosen an email about "Two Urgent Action Items." The first related to a requested meeting with the Director of National Intelligence on procedures to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, permitting Trump to declare a national emergency due to "unusual and extraordinary threats" to the United States and to "block any transactions and freeze any assets within the jurisdiction of the United States to deal with the threat." In the email, Clark made clear that he intended for Trump to use this emergency declaration to block the transfer of power to Biden based on foreign attacks on our election.

We're going to repeat that again, in bold this time: Clark made clear that he intended for Trump to use this emergency declaration to block the transfer of power to Biden based on foreign attacks on our election.

As the basis for his "urgent" request, Clark cited evidence, supposedly in the public domain, from "white hat hackers" indicating that a "Dominion machine accessed the Internet through a smart thermostat with a net connecting trail leading back to China." Clark did not produce or quote any of this purported evidence, but he wrote that he believed the ODNI "may" have additional classified intelligence on this matter.

The second action item was a draft email entitled "Georgia Proof of Concept" which Clark wanted Rosen to send to Georgia legislators advising them of "serious irregularities" in their election and instructing them to convene to dispose of their electoral votes as they saw fit. And after Georgia did it, they could send similar letters to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada, and then Trump could be president forever, HOORAY!

The concept is to send it to the Governor, Speaker, and President pro temp of each relevant state to indicate that in light of time urgency and sworn evidence of election irregularities presented to courts and to legislative committees, the legislatures thereof should each assemble and make a decision about elector appointment in light of their deliberations. I set it up for signature by the three of us. I think we should get it out as soon as possible. Personally, I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter. I put it together quickly and would want to do a formal cite check before sending but I don't think we should let unnecessary moss grow on this.

No matter that there were no such irregularities and in fact federal investigations had uncovered no systemic fraud, and zero evidence that the state's electoral tabulations were incorrect — Clark had DO UR OWN RESEARCHED on the internet, and he was sure it was true anyway.

The situation came to a head on January 3. Clark had repeatedly pressured Rosen and Deputy AG Donoghue to sign onto his bogus fraud letters, and that afternoon he told Rosen that he had accepted an offer from Trump to take over the top job at DOJ, but would allow Rosen (i.e., his boss) to stay on as his subordinate. Rosen then assembled the leadership at the DOJ, who all agreed that they would resign if Clark were put in charge, before heading over to the White House for a meeting with the president.

"One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election," Trump began, repeatedly insisting that he needed Clark in charge. He was only dissuaded from pulling the trigger because his entire senior legal staff threatened to publicly resign, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who described Clark's letter as a "murder-suicide pact." Or, as Sen. Chuck Grassley and the Republican minority put it in their report, "President Trump listened to his advisors, including high-level DOJ officials and White House Counsel and followed their recommendations." (The whole bloody thing is like that — complete whitewash.)

And even after he'd been rebuffed, Trump sicced his campaign lawyers on the DOJ in an attempt to coerce the government into filing a lawsuit at the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate swing state electoral votes. Rosen describes being hounded by Kurt Olsen, one of the lawyers on the infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who somehow got Rosen's cell phone number. During the last week of December, campaign lawyer Olsen bombarded the DOJ leadership with calls and emails making clear that he'd been dispatched by the president.

Here's one email to Rosen's chief of staff from December 29:

Thank you for calling me on behalf of AG Rosen. Attached is a draft complaint to be brought by the United States modeled after the Texas action. As I said on our call, the President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action. I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after this meeting. I can be at Main Justice (or anywhere else in the DC Metropolitan area) within an hour's notice.

Indeed, Trump's own Oval Office assistant Molly Mitchell forwarded the proposed lawsuit, which was full of debunked claims and facially laughable legal arguments, to Rosen and Donoghue herself — making it clear that Trump expected the DOJ to take orders from the campaign to benefit Trump and subvert the election.

In short, this shit is hair on fire CRAZY. Which is perhaps why Mr. Clark has refused to meet with the Committee to discuss his role in it and may go some way toward Trump's insistence that he'll be invoking executive privilege to stop further inquiry.

In summary and in conclusion, this ain't over. Not by a long shot.

[Subverting How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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