Former president Donald Trump reportedly formulated a plan with a Justice Department lawyer to try to force Georgia lawmakers to overturn the state’s results in the presidential election. According to department sources who spoke to the New York Times, Trump planned to remove then-acting attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen and install someone loyal to him who would use the department to strong-arm the state.
According to the Times’ Katie Benner, Trump also had Rosen and that same lawyer, Jeffrey Clark — face off in an Apprentice-style face-off where they presented opposing viewpoints. Clark argued in favor of his plan — which included getting rid of Rosen — and Rosen argued against his own removal.
Trump was frustrated with Rosen’s refusal to pursue his baseless allegations of election fraud. Trump had asked Rosen to file legal briefs in support of the lawsuits attempting to overturn election results, but Rosen said no. And Rosen denied the president’s request to appoint special counsels to search for evidence of voter fraud.
Meanwhile, Clark, acting head of the DOJ’s civil division, was formulating a plan to try to flip Georgia in favor of Trump. He asked Rosen to send a letter to Georgia state legislators, stating the department was investigating election fraud there and imploring them to void Biden’s win. Rosen and Deputy Attorney General Richard P. Donoghue declined to send it.
Clark told the Times that their account had inaccuracies but did not give specifics. He said, “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties. All my official communications were consistent with law.” Trump, Rosen, and a Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. A Trump advisor told the paper, Trump has argued in favor of investigating “rampant election fraud that has plagued our system for years” and “any assertion to the contrary is false and being driven by those who wish to keep the system broken.”
The weekend before Trump’s term ended, the president met with Clark, and after the meeting, Clark told Rosen of Trump’s intent to remove him. On a conference call, Donoghue informed senior justice department leadership of the plan, and they all agreed to resign together if Rosen were removed.
Then Rosen, Clark, and Donoghue met with Trump, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and other White House lawyers for three hours. In the meeting, Rosen and Clark each made their case. Cipollone advised Trump to keep Rosen, and the head of DOJ’s legal counsel, Steven Engel, informed the president that top officials would resign if he didn’t.
At the end of the meeting, Benner reported, Trump eventually decided to keep Rosen as attorney general, deciding that Clark’s plan would not succeed. But for too long, the fate of our democracy hinged on a president who treated governing like a game show.