Attorney General

Justice Department lawyers threatened mass resignations if Trump appointed loyalist to pursue election claims

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Top Justice Department lawyers and White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatened mass resignations during a White House meeting in which they opposed President Donald Trump’s plan to install a loyalist as acting attorney general to help him overturn the election results through voter fraud investigations.

The lawyers told Trump they would resign if he carried out his plan to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division. They also said that every assistant attorney general in the Justice Department would also resign, and resignations could extend to U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department officials.

The Washington Post, Law360 and the New York Times are among the publications with coverage of the interim report by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The New York Times had previously reported on Trump’s plan.

Clark had spoken with Trump multiple times about challenging election results and asked his superiors to send a letter to Georgia officials stating, without support, that the Justice Department had identified significant concerns that may have affected the election outcome.

Besides Cipollone, lawyers in the Jan. 3 meeting included Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue. Cipollone told the president the plan would be a “murder-suicide pact” because of the likely chain reaction of resignations.

The lawyers also tried to persuade Trump not to fire U.S. Attorney Byung Pak of Atlanta, whom Trump blamed for failure to find mass election fraud in Georgia. Pak resigned the next day.

Rosen, Donoghue and Pak all told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump had pressured them to investigate voter fraud claims. Pak said he had resigned on Jan. 4 after Donoghue told him that Trump wanted to fire him, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The committee has asked the District of Columbia Bar to open an ethics investigation of Clark based on the findings. Clark is a former Kirkland & Ellis partner who is now with the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

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