Jeffrey Clark, a senior Justice Department official allied with Trump, wanted the department to intervene. He drafted the extraordinary letter to Georgia officials, dated Dec. 28, 2020.
The letter said the Justice Department had “significant concerns” about fraud that may have affected the outcome of the election in Georgia and other states. As evidence, it cited allegations raised in a Georgia Senate report and in a Trump lawsuit. And it urged Georgia officials to convene a special session of the General Assembly to consider invalidating Georgia’s official election results and selecting the winner themselves.
One problem: The Justice Department had no such concerns about fraud. Federal investigators had examined fraud claims in Georgia and elsewhere and found no evidence to support them. The Georgia Senate report it cited was a one-sided recounting of Trump’s allegations that made no attempt to determine whether they were true. And election experts had rejected the allegations in Trump’s lawsuit as “highly inaccurate,” “wildly unreliable” and “worthless.”
On Thursday the House committee cited Clark’s letter as evidence of Trump’s effort to use the Justice Department to overturn Biden’s victory on the false premise that the election was stolen.
“This letter is a lie,” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, said during the hearing. “The Department of Justice had repeatedly told President Trump exactly the opposite.”
Clark’s superiors said they would never send such a letter. In an email to Clark, acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he had seen no evidence of fraud that would make state election results unreliable.
Donoghue said sending such the letter “would be a grave step for the department to take and it could have tremendous constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country.”
When Justice Department officials resisted these and other efforts to aide Trump’s campaign, he considered appointing Clark to be acting attorney general. Senior officials threatened to resign if Clark was appointed, and the president backed down.
But Trump remained frustrated that the department had not uncovered fraud. And he found a target for his wrath: Byung “BJay” Pak, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta. Trump blamed Pak for failing to uncover fraud, and he said Pak had to go.
Pak resigned on Jan. 4, 2021.
You can read more about efforts to undermine the 2020 election in Georgia here.