WASHINGTON — Then-President Donald Trump considered replacing acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen in January with Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to help Trump push his claims of widespread voter fraud in order to overturn the election results, according to a Justice Department official.
Trump ultimately decided against firing Rosen out of fear that it would lead to mass resignations from Justice Department staff, which he worried could undermine his goal of staying in power.
Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to use the Justice Department to stay in office were first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by NBC News.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter that the Justice Department inspector general “must launch an investigation into this attempted sedition now.”
Trump and Clark had come up with a plan to get rid of Rosen, freeing them up to use the Justice Department’s resources to pressure Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.
Trump became fixated on Georgia after the state was called for President Joe Biden by roughly 12,000 votes, making Trump the first Republican to lose the state in over 20 years. Georgia’s election results alone would not have been enough Electoral College votes to make Trump the winner.
Clark denied that he had devised a plan with Trump, saying in a statement provided to The New York Times: “There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president. It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions.”
Throughout his presidency, Trump sought to bend Justice Department officials to act in his favor. His actions became increasingly troubling after he lost his re-election, leading some of his most loyal allies, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, to break from him.
Trump announced on Twitter in December that Barr would be leaving his post shortly after the attorney general said publicly there was no widespread fraud in the election, defying Trump. Rosen took over for Barr in the final month of Trump’s presidency.
When asked for comment, an advisor to Trump said : “President Trump has consistently argued that our justice system should be investigating the broader, rampant election fraud that has plagued our system for years. Any assertion to the contrary is false and being driven by those who wish to keep the system broken.”
News of Trump’s actions sparked immediate criticism.
“We saw the coup attempt attempt at the Capitol on Jan. 6th, little did we know that one had been attempted at the Department of Justice,” said former Justice Department official David Laufman in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday.