Watchdog probes if DOJ officials tried to overturn 2020 election

Politics

FILE – In this Dec. 18, 2019, file photo, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Horowitz is launching an investigation to examine whether any former or current department officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Justice Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation to examine whether any former or current department officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Monday that the investigation will look into allegations concerning the conduct of former and current Justice Department officials, but will not extend to other government officials.

The investigation comes after The New York Times reported that a former assistant attorney general, Jeffrey Clark, had been discussing a plan with then-President Donald Trump to oust then-acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, to attempt to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential race, launch a probe of alleged voter fraud in Georgia and suggest falsely that there had been widespread election fraud.

The plan to oust Rosen and replace him with Clark so that the department could pursue investigations of Trump’s unfounded voter fraud claims collapsed after senior department leaders pledged to resign in protest, current and former Justice Department officials told Reuters.

The reports about Clark and Trump’s failed plan “raise deeply troubling questions regarding the Justice Department’s role in Trump’s scheme to overturn the election,” wrote nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to current and former officials who spoke to Reuters, Clark tried to pressure Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Rich Donoghue to hold a press conference to announce they were pursuing allegations of election fraud. They said he also advocated for them to send a letter he had penned to Georgia state officials announcing they were launching a probe.

Rosen and Donoghue rejected both requests.

Donoghue then arranged an emergency conference call with senior department leaders to tell them about Clark’s plan.

All of them pledged to resign if Trump followed through on Clark’s plan, the current and former officials confirmed to Reuters.

In a meeting at the White House later that evening, senior Justice Department officials met with Trump and other White House lawyers and convinced Trump not to appoint Clark.

Clark has since left the Justice Department and has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement that his probe will encompass “all relevant allegations that may arise.” He noted his office does not have jurisdiction to investigate other government officials outside of the Justice Department.

The announcement of the investigation comes two days after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the inspector general launch a probe “into this attempted sedition.” The New York Democrat said it was “unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”

Election officials across the country, along with Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states won by Biden, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three justices nominated by Trump.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report; Reporting by the AP’s Michael Balsamo, Reuters’ reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David Shepardson

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