Pak describes pressure from Trump allies leading up to his resignation

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

WASHINGTON — Former Atlanta-based U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak confirmed in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that pressure to investigate false claims of election fraud led to his abrupt resignation.

Then-President Donald Trump’s unhappiness with Pak has long been reported as the reason why he stepped down Jan. 4, but transcripts released Thursday mark the first time he described publicly how it all unfolded.

Pak said he wrote his resignation letter after a late-night phone call with Richard Donoghue, who was serving as the acting deputy U.S. attorney general.

“That’s when Mr. Donoghue relayed to me that the President was very unhappy and that he wanted to fire me, that he believed that I was a Never Trumper,” Pak told lawmakers and their attorneys Aug. 11, according to the transcript. “And Mr. Donoghue told me that he had told Mr. Trump that he thought that was incorrect, and that the President did not care but wanted me out of that spot.”

The transcript was included as part of a report from the Judiciary Committee, which spent eight months investigating how Trump and his allies attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. A House select committee has a similar investigation underway, and its scope also includes the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump and his loyalists continued to falsely claim the election was stolen from him, and they made several baseless allegations about Georgia in the weeks after the November general election.

Testimony from Pak and other former Justice Department officials sheds light on these attempts to influence lawmakers in Georgia to overturn Joe Biden’s win. But their remarks also highlight the individuals who tried to stand in the way of these attempts to undermine the election.

Pak, who was confirmed as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in September 2017, told the committee that his office looked into various claims of fraud.

That included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s allegations of a suitcase full of ballots in Fulton County and state Sen. William Ligon’s concerns about ballot handling in Cobb County. None of it was substantiated, Pak said.

Right around New Year’s Eve, Pak and Donoghue, who had a friendly relationship, spoke about their frustrations because Trump would not accept that he lost Georgia. Donoghue told Pak that Jeffrey Clark, who was serving as acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, had suggested a letter be sent to the General Assembly asking lawmakers to refuse to certify Electoral College votes for Biden.

“That’s just highly crazy,” Pak said he remembered saying to Donoghue during that conversation. “I think the words I used were — I think Rich used the words that this is bat-s**t crazy.”

On Jan. 2, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” votes to overturn the election. The call has since become a focal point of the Judiciary Committee’s investigation.

“I was very upset,” Pak said about learning of that conversation. “At the same time very disappointed because the call — the summary of the description about the call indicated that despite at least me and also the attorney general (William Barr) reporting up that there had not been widespread fraud, that the President was seeking to overturn the election or at least find ballots or represent that there was irregularities.”

Pak said he considered stepping down on Jan. 3 but didn’t want his resignation to give credibility to the false allegations or disrupt Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. But later that night, it was Donoghue who called to tell him that Trump wanted him out. Immediately.

About the report

Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his 2020 election defeat brought the Justice Department to the brink of chaos, and prompted top officials there and at the White House to threaten to resign, a Senate Judiciary Committee report found.

The report released Thursday by the Democratic-run committee offers new insight into how the Republican incumbent tried to undo the vote and exert his will on the department, asking leaders to declare the election “corrupt” and disparaging its top official for not doing anything to overturn the results. Trump’s actions led to a near-revolt at department headquarters that receded only after senior officials warned of a mass resignation, with one White House lawyer describing efforts to undo the election as a “murder-suicide pact.”

Source: The Associated Press