The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday released an exhaustive report that describes in new detail how then-President Donald Trump and his allies repeatedly pressured the U.S Department of Justice to overturn his 2020 election defeat and reveals the extent to which high-ranking government officials responded to the coup attempt by threatening to resign.
Based on an ongoing investigation that includes interviews with former top DOJ officials, the 394-page interim report—entitled Subverting Justice—contains findings that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the committee, called “damning.”
“Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election represents a very real and continued threat to our democracy,” Durbin tweeted Thursday.
“This report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Durbin said in a statement. “Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort.”
As CNN reported, “Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times to undermine the election result, and his chief of staff Mark Meadows broke administration policy by pressuring a Justice Department lawyer to investigate claims of election fraud.”
According to the committee, Trump’s baseless assertions that the election had been stolen from him undoubtedly “helped incite almost 1,000 Americans to breach the Capitol in a violent insurrection on January 6, 2021.”
Three days before the right-wing mob attacked the halls of Congress as lawmakers attempted to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, “then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and a few other administration officials met in the Oval Office for a final confrontation on Trump’s plan to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a little-known Justice Department official who had indicated he would publicly pursue Trump’s false claims of mass voter fraud,” the Washington Post reported.
The Post noted:
According to testimony Rosen gave to the committee, Trump opened the meeting by saying, “One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election.”
For three hours, the officials then debated Trump’s plan, and the insistence by Rosen and others that they would resign rather than go along with it.
During the meeting, Donoghue and another Justice Department official made clear that all of the Justice Department’s assistant attorneys general “would resign if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark,” the report says. “Donoghue added that the mass resignations likely would not end there, and that U.S. Attorneys and other DOJ officials might also resign en masse.”
In addition, the report states that White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatened to quit if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark.
The January 3 meeting came one week after Trump pressured Rosen and Donoghue to “just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me.”
The new details of Trump’s stifled power grab, which come eight months into the committee’s unfinished probe, “highlight the relentlessness of Trump and some of his top advisers as they fixated on using the Justice Department to prop up false conspiracies of election fraud,” CNN noted. “The committee report, the most comprehensive account so far of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, described his conduct as an abuse of presidential power.”
More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to establish an independent DOJ task force to “investigate any potential federal criminal or civil violations that may have been committed by Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates.”
Although the Hold Trump Accountable campaign—organized by a coalition of progressive groups and led by Free Speech for People—began months before the Senate Judiciary Committee released its findings, members of the coalition said in a statement that “this report makes clear that there is more than [a] sufficient basis to investigate clear abuses of power and potential federal crimes committed by Donald Trump and his associates.”
“Restoring the rule of law begins with restoring the Department of Justice and neither of those can be accomplished without holding Donald Trump and his accomplices accountable,” said Ben Clements, board chair and senior legal adviser of Free Speech For People.
“To reestablish the bedrock principle that we are a nation of laws and that no one—not even the president—is above the law, it is essential that Attorney General Merrick Garland assign a task force to investigate and, where the evidence requires, prosecute, those who violated their oaths of office and violated our nation’s laws,” he added.
While Trump’s coup attempt failed, his “false claims over the election have fractured the nation, with millions of Americans wrongly believing the contest was stolen,” noted the Associated Press.
Committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called Trump’s election subversion effort “a spine-chillingly close call that still leaves a dark cloud lingering over our democracy.” The report, he added, “shows how Trump nearly destroyed the Constitution in his attempt to harness [the] DOJ in overturning the election.”
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