As we watched the January 6 Commission and its interviews, we have seen the connecting of the dots in the most audacious effort in our history to overturn the results of a free and fair election. We have seen overwhelming evidence of a conspiracy to destroy our democracy and our Constitution. 2020 was not a close election. Trump could not bear the thought, the reality that he lost. He lost. He is a loser.

Among the many devious, dishonest plots to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election, the following story may be the worst, in my judgment, although there are surely other contenders.

Michael Kranish of The Washington Post told the story of Trump’s attempt to appoint a new Attorney General in early January 2021 who would send letters to several states informing them that their electors should be withdrawn due to serious concerns about election fraud. Trump met with an official, Jeffrey Clark, in the Justice Department who wanted to be appointed Attorney General and stop the certification of Biden. Clark’s superiors said he was totally unqualified and threatened to resign en masse if Trump elevated him. Faced with the threat of a mass resignation of the top officials at the Justice Department, his own appointees, Trump backed down.

Three days before Congress was slated to certify the 2020 presidential election, a little-known Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark rushed to meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office to discuss a last-ditch attempt to reverse the results.

Clark, an environmental lawyer by trade, had outlined a plan in a letter he wanted to send to the leaders of key states Joe Biden won. It said that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the vote and that the states should consider sending “a separate slate of electors supporting Donald J. Trump” for Congress to approve.

In fact, Clark’s bosses had warned there was not evidence to overturn the election and had rejected his letter days earlier. Now they learned Clark was about to meet with Trump. Acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen tracked down his deputy, Richard Donoghue, who had been walking on the Mall in muddy jeans and an Army T-shirt. There was no time to change. They raced to the Oval Office.

As Rosen and Donoghue listened, Clark told Trump that he would send the letter if the president named him attorney general.

“History is calling,” Clark told the president, according to a deposition from Donoghue excerpted in a recent court filing. “This is our opportunity. We can get this done.”

Donoghue urged Trump not to put Clark in charge, calling him “not competent” and warning of “mass resignations” by Justice Department officials if he became the nation’s top law enforcement official, according to Donoghue’s account.

“What happens if, within 48 hours, we have hundreds of resignations from your Justice Department because of your actions?” Donoghue said he asked Trump. “What does that say about your leadership?”

Clark’s letter and his Oval Office meeting set off one of the tensest chapters during Trump’s effort to overturn the election, which culminated three days later with rioters storming the U.S. Capitol. His plan could have decapitated the Justice Department leadership and could have overturned the election.

Clark’s actions have been the focus of a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation and an ongoing probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general, and now are expected to be closely examined during June hearings by the House committee investigating the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

After the New York Times reported in January 2021 about Clark’s actions, he said he engaged in a “candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president,” denied that he had a plan to oust Rosen, and criticized others in the meeting for talking publicly and “distorting” the discussion.
Now, however, key witnesses have provided Congress with a fuller account of Clark’s actions, including new details about the confrontation that took place in the Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting, which lasted nearly three hours.

A reconstruction of the events by The Washington Post, based on the court filings, depositions, Senate and House reports, previously undisclosed emails, and interviews with knowledgeable government officials, shows how close the country came to crisis three days before the insurrection.

The evidence, which fills in crucial details about Clark’s efforts, includes an email showing he was sent a draft of a letter outlining a plan to try to overturn the election by a just-arrived Justice Department official who had once written a book claiming President Barack Obama planned to “subvert the Constitution.”

But larger mysteries could still be solved at an upcoming Jan. 6 committee hearing slated to examine Clark’s actions, including the crucial question of whether Clark and his allies were acting on their own initiative — or whether they were one piece of a larger, well-planned effort to keep Trump in power. That question gets to the heart of the committee’s professed mission: proving there was a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
Clark, 55, and his lawyer, Harry MacDougald, declined to comment.

The House committee unanimously voted to hold Clark in contempt of Congress after he declined in December to answer most questions on grounds that his interactions with Trump were privileged. But Clark later appeared before the committee and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, CNN reported; his testimony from that appearance has not been released.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who participated in the Judiciary Committee’s investigation, said investigators should key in on whether Clark was working on behalf of others not yet identified.
“It certainly could be a symptom of a much larger and more coherent plan than has currently been disclosed,” Whitehouse said. Clark “does not appear to have elections expertise or experience, which raises the question, did he really sit down at his computer and type it out or does somebody produce it for him?

Trump met in the White House with Clark and the top officials in the Justice Department, including Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue. Trump told them of his plan to make Clark the Attorney General. They were outraged.

Trump repeatedly went after Rosen and Donoghue, saying they hadn’t pursued voter fraud allegations.

“You two,” Trump said, pointing to the two top Justice Department officials. “You two haven’t done anything. You two don’t care. You haven’t taken appropriate actions. Everyone tells me I should fire you.”

Trump continually circled back to the idea of replacing Rosen with Clark.

“What do I have to lose?” the president asked, according to Donoghue.

“Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose,” Donoghue said he responded. “Is this really how you want your administration to end? You’re going to hurt the country, you’re going to hurt the department, you’re going to hurt yourself, with people grasping at straws on these desperate theories about election fraud, and is this really in anyone’s best interest?”

Donoghue warned Trump that putting Clark in charge would be likely to lead to mass resignations at the Justice Department.

“Well, suppose I do this,” Trump said to Donoghue. “Suppose I replace [Rosen] with [Clark], what would you do?”

“Sir, I would resign immediately,” Donoghue said he responded. “There’s no way I’m serving under this guy [Clark].”

Trump then turned to Steve Engel, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, whom Trump reportedly had considered for a seat on the Supreme Court.
“Steve, you wouldn’t resign, would you?” Trump asked.

“Absolutely I would, Mr. President. You’d leave me no choice,” Engel responded, according to Donoghue’s account. Engel declined to comment.

“And we’re not the only ones,” Donoghue said he told Trump. “You should understand that your entire department leadership will resign. Every [assistant attorney general] will resign. … Mr. President, these aren’t bureaucratic leftovers from another administration. You picked them. This is your leadership team. You sent every one of them to the Senate; you got them confirmed. What is that going to say about you, when we all walk out at the same time?”

Donoghue then told Trump that Clark had no qualification to be attorney general: “He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He’s never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury.”
Clark objected.

“Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation, and things like that,” Clark said, according to Donoghue’s deposition.

“That’s right,” Donoghue said he responded. “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, told Trump that Clark’s proposed letter was “a murder-suicide pact,” according to Donoghue’s deposition. “It’s going to damage everyone who touches it. And we should have nothing to do with that letter. I don’t ever want to see that letter again.” Cipollone declined to comment.

Read the rest of the story if it is not behind a paywall.

The account goes on, filling in details about Clark’s effort to be named Attorney General of the United States and overturn the election. It is a shocking story. Had Trump appointed Clark, some Republican-led states might have recalled their electors. The Constitutional process, the orderly transition of power, would have been halted. The nation would have endured an unprecedented crisis. Trump would have been in control of the military and the levers of government.

No one knows what would have happened next.

My favorite part of the story:

“That’s right,” Donoghue said he responded. “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”