On the surface, it's been obvious for months that Donald Trump wanted to hold illegitimate power in the wake of his election defeat, but the specific nature of his plan always seemed murky. What was it, exactly, that the former president thought would happen? What was the plan? Who would implement it and how?
Just over the last week or so, the Justice Department's role in the anti-election scheme came into sharper focus in ways Americans have not yet fully grappled with. We learned last week, for example, that it was on Dec. 27 when Trump privately urged the Justice Department's top two officials at the time to lie about the 2020 presidential election and falsely claim that it was corrupt.
"Just say that the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me" and to Republican members of Congress, the former president told Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and his deputy, Richard Donoghue.
It was a day later, on Dec. 28, when Jeffrey Clark -- at the time, the acting head of the Justice Department's civil division -- sketched out a map for Georgia Republicans to follow in which they could try to overturn the will of the state's voters. By some accounts, it wasn't just Georgia: Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said on the show last week that Clark prepared draft materials for six states whose results the Republican White House wanted to overturn.
As MSNBC's Chris Hayes explained on his show last week, "For the first time in the development of this whole story through months of reporting and sort of patchwork bits of information, it's clear, there was an actual, cognizable plan to overturn the election. An actual strategy to get Donald Trump declared the winner of the election, not just throwing stuff against the wall and tantrum tweeting and easily dismissed farkakteh lawsuits."
As stunning as these revelations have been -- I don't think it's an exaggeration to see this as one of the most important scandals in U.S. political history -- there's no reason to believe the flow of new information will stop. NBC News reported yesterday:
The Senate Judiciary Committee has interviewed former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue in its investigation into whether former President Donald Trump tried to enlist the Justice Department in his effort to overturn the 2020 election results. A spokesperson for the committee confirmed that it held a closed-door interview with Donoghue on Friday and a seven-hour interview with Rosen on Saturday.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on CNN yesterday morning that Rosen testified voluntarily, and the pressure Trump put on the then-acting attorney general after the election was "real, very real -- and it was very specific."
The New York Times also reported over the weekend that Rosen has told the Justice Department inspector general and congressional investigators that Clark tried to help Trump subvert the results of the 2020 election.
The same article noted that, according to the former acting attorney general, Clark admitted that he'd met privately with Trump in the midst of his efforts to help the then-president hold onto power he hadn't earned. According to the Times, Rosen also described instances in which Clark pressed Justice Department officials "to make statements about the election that they found to be untrue."
Though I haven't seen this reported elsewhere, CNN ran a related piece over the weekend, noting that Clark told senior officials at the Justice Department "that he knew of sensitive information that indicated Chinese intelligence used special kinds of thermometers to change results in machines tallying votes."
CNN's report referenced an apparent email in which Clark claimed that "hackers have evidence (in the public domain) that a Dominion machine accessed the Internet through a smart thermostat with a net connection trail leading back to China." The Republican lawyer suggested that the Director of National Intelligence's office "may" have classified evidence to substantiate the bizarre theory.
Obviously, we now know that the radical tactics and partisan extremists failed. But the fact that such a scheme was hatched in the first place is breathtaking -- it looks an awful lot like an attempted coup -- and it's worth appreciating the fact that if there were a Republican majority in Congress right now, there would be no investigation into the scandal.