While much attention has focused on Trump inciting a mob to attack the US Capitol on January 6th, there was another activity that Trump was engaged in that shows the extent to which he was willing to go to overturn an election in which he lost. This alone is, to my mind, worthy of him being convicted in the trial. This occurred just before the insurrection and involved his attempt to use the department of justice to falsely claim that they were investigating election fraud claims. He was willing to go to the extent of firing the acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, who refused to send out such a letter, and replacing him with a lower level official Jeffrey Clark who came up with the idea and was willing to send it out.
Just days before former president Donald Trump incited a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, he and a Justice Department lawyer hatched a last-ditch plot to replace former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen in order to weaponize the DOJ in support of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, the New York Times reported Friday night.
The day after Trump announced on December 14 that Barr was stepping down, he met with Rosen, Barr’s replacement, to personally pressure him to support the lawsuit as well as, according to the Journal, appoint a special counsel to investigate Trump’s fraud claims. Rosen refused, just as Barr had. Trump continued to try to pressure Rosen and the deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, and was eventually linked up with Clark, a Federalist Society member whom Trump had appointed to be the acting head the DOJ’s Civil Division — and who backed the president’s baseless stolen-election claims.
Clark, for his part, tried and failed to convince Rosen and Donoghue to announce the Justice Department was launching an investigation into Trump’s fraud claims. He also tried and failed to get Rosen and Donoghue to send a letter to Georgia state legislators falsely claiming that the DOJ was investigating voter fraud in the state.
Everything came to a head the weekend before the Capitol riot. Clark met with Trump after again being rebuffed by Rosen and Donoghue, then told Rosen on Sunday, January 3, that Trump was going to replace him with Clark so Clark could try to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win on January 6. Rosen and Donoghue immediately told Steven Engel, who runs the DOJ’s office of legal counsel, about the threat, and Donoghue held a call with senior Justice Department leaders where they all agreed to resign if Rosen was fired. That threat was soon communicated to Trump by Engel.
On Sunday night, Trump backed down and spiked Clark’s plan, but according to the Times, “Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show The Apprentice, albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.” It apparently took him three hours to decide what he wanted to do.
The new reports about Trump’s repeated efforts to push the DOJ to help him subvert the election also illustrate how Trump knew he was out of options on January 6, when he held his now-infamous Stop the Steal rally — and incited a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol and prevent Congress from closing the book on the 2020 election for good.
So his incitement on January 6th was his last stand, a desperate attempt to achieve by force the coup that he had failed to get by means of covert actions behind the scenes.
Trump’s obsession with overturning the results in Georgia is truly something to behold. That loss seems to have rankled with him more than the other states he lost. We know that he repeatedly pressured the Georgia’s secretary of state to somehow ‘find’ 11,780 Trump votes that would have overturned Biden’s margin of victory. It was reportedly that pressure campaign, that was aided by his sidekick Lindsey Graham, that even resulted in the US Attorney for Atlanta resigning. Even if Trump had overturned the Georgia result, he would still have lost the election which makes his singular fixation with that state perplexing.
The more you think about it, the more extraordinary the whole sequence of events is. That Trump deserves to be convicted of the impeachment charges seems clear to me. His defenders may be able to argue that he did not actually incite the riot. But this act of attempted subversion is too blatant to overlook. But you cannot expect the majority of Republicans in congress to do the right thing. They are too complicit in Trump’s actions to now back off. That only five of them voted to reject the objection to the impeachment trial shows how craven they are. Mitch McConnell, for a brief moment, made some remarks critical of Trump but he now seems to have slunk back to him with his tail between his legs. I am not in the least surprised.