Calm I may be, even in my high expectations for prosecutions of those who attempted to overturn our elected government, even given how much we learn every day, I just found that I still have the capacity to be shocked.
Today, I picked up a piece written by Barbara McQuade about what happened in the DOJ and White House on January 3, 2021.
Yes, yes, I said to myself when I saw the title, we know all that. But I read it anyway. Maybe because she presents the events so simply and plainly, without any exaggeration, with the clinical detachment of a lawyer, I’m just…
I’m struck, yet again, with how nuts/stupid these people are.
Here’s a lot of it.
Testimony and records provided to congressional committees lay out the dramatic events of the evening of Jan. 3, 2021. An Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump had been scheduled for 6 p.m. at the request of acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen. That meeting would turn out to be a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.
At 3 p.m. that day, another Department of Justice official, Jeffrey Clark, had told Rosen that he – Clark – would be replacing him as acting attorney general. Clark said he had been meeting privately with Trump, a direct violation of DOJ policy limiting contact with the White House. Clark was advancing a baseless strategy, which Rosen had repeatedly rejected, to contest the presidential election. Like his predecessor William Barr, Rosen had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, a conclusion over which Barr had resigned. Now, it appeared, if Rosen would not weaponize the Department to advance Trump’s efforts to subvert the election, Trump would simply replace Rosen with someone who would.
In December, Clark had presented a plan to Rosen and his top deputy, Richard Donoghue, in which DOJ would send a letter to the legislatures of six swing states won by Joe Biden, alerting them to election “irregularities” and urging them to convene to consider appointing an alternate set of electors. Clark had even drafted the letter, which said if the legislatures were to elect their own slates of electors, then during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, the vice president would have the power to decide whether to count the alternate slates instead of the electors chosen by the voters.
Clark’s proposal accompanied a related demand by Trump that DOJ file a lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court against the six swing states. Rosen rejected that demand, along with Trump’s insistence that he investigate claims of voter fraud. (According to testimony and hand-written notes made by Donoghue at the time, Trump told Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican Congressmen.”)
On New Year’s Eve, in a meeting with Rosen, Donoghue, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump threatened to fire Rosen. Rosen told him that replacing leadership would not change the outcome, since DOJ follows the facts and the law.
Four days later, Trump had decided to make the switch anyway. On Sunday, Jan. 3, Clark told Rosen that Trump was installing him as acting attorney general, prompting Rosen to ask Meadows for a meeting that evening with Trump.
Before the meeting, DOJ leaders scrambled to alert their colleagues to the looming threat to the Department. During a conference call, nine top DOJ leaders agreed to resign together if Trump fired Rosen. A senior staffer drafted an email message that would be sent upon Rosen’s firing to the heads of all DOJ components, the U.S. Attorneys who chaired the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and the entire staffs of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.
As Donoghue’s staff awaited word as to whether to hit the send button, Rosen and Donoghue headed to the Oval Office for the 6 p.m. meeting. Clark was there. Also present were Steve Engel, an assistant attorney general, as well as Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin. The meeting lasted for three hours. Rosen and Donoghue again debunked claims of voter fraud. The meeting ended when Rosen, the other DOJ officials, and even Cipollone threatened to resign if Clark were appointed and his letters sent to state legislatures.
Only in the face of these mass resignations did Trump back down from his decision to fire Rosen.