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Jan. 6 Timeline: Key Moments From Before the Attack on the Capitol to Now

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 3, 2021, Jeffrey Clark, the Acting Chief of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and an expert in environmental law, stepped into the conference room of his boss, the Acting Attorney General, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who weeks earlier from Mr Barr.

Mr. Clark was there with notable but then unsurprising news for Mr. Rosen: Mr. Trump had offered Mr. Clark the job to head the Justice Department, effective that day. According to a report he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosen can stay on as No. 2 if he wants to. Mr Rosen replied that he was not about to be fired by a subordinate and said he would take the matter directly to Mr Trump.

Maneuvering to control the Justice Department was a closely guarded secret at the time, but it underlined how far Mr Trump was willing to go to avoid his defeat.

Over the course of several weeks, a battle raged between camps within the administration and between Mr. Trump’s allies over who would lead the Justice Department at a time when it was under intense pressure from Mr. and unsubstantiated claims that he had been defrauded of reelection by fraud.

And over a tense few days, Mr. Trump concocted a plan that Mr. Rosen, who had rejected the president’s pleas, would have cast aside in favor of Mr. Clark, a loyalist who eagerly promoted steps, including having The Justice Department has sent a letter to Georgia officials saying allegations of voter fraud could invalidate the state’s electoral college results — a message with no basis.

Mr Barr had previously dismissed allegations of widespread fraud, but Mr Trump had no intention of giving up. He and his allies, including a group of members of the Republican House and several conservative lawyers, contacted Justice Department leaders almost every day leading up to Jan. 6, sometimes several times a day, asking for fraud investigations. and other steps to undo the election.

Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, for example, worked with Mr. Clark to try to persuade Georgia officials to withdraw the state’s results. Others urged the department to take the fight to the Supreme Court.

The press campaign kicked off on Dec. 14, the day Mr. Trump announced that then-No. 2 official, Mr. Rosen, would replace Mr. Barr. An aide to Mr. Trump sent an email to Mr. Rosen about voter fraud in Michigan and problems with Dominion Voting Systems’ machines, the first of many fraud conspiracy theories that Mr. Rosen and his team would investigate and debunk.

The next day, Trump insisted in the Oval Office that Mr. Rosen appoint special counsel to investigate Dominion’s voting machines and other matters. He wanted the department to support lawsuits seeking to undo the election. Mr Rosen declined the requests, as he would for the next 19 days, reiterating Mr Barr’s statement that there was no widespread fraud.

Mr Trump said the Justice Department was not fighting hard enough for him.

Rosen and other department officials hoped the facts would eventually convince Trump to admit his loss. They had no idea that Mr. Perry had secretly introduced the president to Mr. Clark as the Justice Department ally he had longed for, someone who would put the Department to work contesting the election results.

The suspicion of deeper problems came on Dec. 27, when Mr. Rosen and his top deputy, Mr. Donoghue, told Mr Trump there was no evidence of the lawsuits he had filed in an attempt to overturn the election. Reports of corruption in swing states were unconfirmed.

Attorney General William P. Barr publicly said in December 2020 that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have had a different outcome in the election.”
Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Mr. Trump objected that the department could “just say the election was corrupt,” and leave the rest to him “and the R. Congressmen,” according to the notes of the appeal. Mr. Donoghue testified that the “R” refers to Republicans, some of whom were already working to undermine public confidence in the election.

Trump hinted at his intentions, saying that “people tell me Jeff Clark is awesome, I should put him in there,” Mr Donoghue later testified. That day, Mr. Perry also Mr. Donoghue to tell him that Mr. Clark “could do something” about the president’s claims.

During tense talks with Mr. Clark, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue learned that he was working with Mr. Trump’s allies on a plan to nullify Georgia’s results. He asked mr. Rosen to send the proposed letter falsely informing Georgia state officials that a federal investigation could invalidate the state’s results. Mr. Rosen refused.

At the White House, the President’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows briefed Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue about a conspiracy theory known as Italygate, which falsely claimed that people in Italy had used military technology to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States. United States States.

By New Year’s Eve, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue had become deeply concerned. They had rejected outlandish demands to lobby the Supreme Court, appoint special counsel, and give credence to wild conspiracy theories. But they struggled to deal with Mr. Clark, who wanted a department official to falsely say at a press conference that fraud investigations had cast doubt on the election results.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue have banned him from talking to Mr. Trump.

On January 2, Mr. Clark revealed that he had secretly conducted a witness hearing in connection with an already refuted allegation of voter fraud. And he suggested to Mr. Rosen the prospect that Mr. Trump could install him as acting attorney general, but he offered a deal: He would turn down such an offer if Mr. Rosen sent the fake letter to Georgia’s state officials. Mr. Donoghue stopped the plan.

mr. Clark then spoke secretly with Mr. Trump, in defiance of orders. On January 3, he informed Mr. Rosen that the president intended to replace him with Mr. Clark.

Not wanting to be pushed out without a fight, Mr. Rosen teamed up with Mr. Cipollone, White House counsel and an ally, to arrange a meeting with Mr. Trump that evening, a Sunday. Before going to the White House, Mr. Donoghue called a conference call with the seven or eight leaders of the department, during which he explained the machinations of Mr. Clark and the upcoming battle of Mr. Rosen explained before his job.

If Mr. Rosen were to be fired, he asked, what would the group do?

Shocked, the officials unanimously voted to resign en masse if Mr Rosen was forced to fire. Their plan was reminiscent of the so-called Nixon-era Saturday Night Massacre, when Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and his deputy resigned instead of carrying out the president’s order to fire the special counsel investigating him.

The showdown that night at the White House was extraordinary, even by the standards of the Trump administration. Mr. Trump opened the Oval Office meeting at around 6 p.m. with a blunt statement: “One thing we know is that you, Rosen, are not going to do anything to undo the election,” Mr. Trump said, according to a later statement. Mr Rosen. testimony.

Justice Department officials unanimously agreed to resign en masse if Jeffrey A. Rosen, the acting attorney general, was forced to leave.
Swimming pool photo by Yuri Gripas

Mr. Cipollone called Mr. Clark’s plan to send the proposed letter to Georgia a “murder-suicide pact,” meeting participants later testified. The officials warned that firing Mr Rosen would lead to mass layoffs and that Mr Clark would run a depopulated agency.

In a heated moment, Mr. Donoghue that Mr. Clark “wouldn’t even know how to make his way” into the FBI director’s office and “wasn’t even qualified to serve as an attorney general,” he later told investigators.

when mr. Clark protested, Mr. Donoghue told the investigators that he snapped. “You’re an environmental lawyer,” he told Mr. Clark. “How about going back to your office and we’ll call you if there’s an oil leak.”

It wasn’t until the final stages of the roughly three-hour meeting that Mr. Trump relented. The plan to install Mr. Clark on top of the Justice Department was shelved and the letter to Georgia officials was never sent.

But Mr Trump was still not ready to let go of his allegations of voter fraud. He said he would fire the US attorney in Atlanta, who quit when he learned of the threat. Shortly after the end of the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Donoghue told Senate investigators, Mr. Trump warned him about a report that a Department of Homeland Security agent found a truckload of shredded ballot papers near the United States. Atlanta.

The Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security later concluded that the only ballots destroyed were from previous elections and had been cleared to make room for the 2020 ballot storage.

Thwarted in his attempt to carry out a hostile takeover of the Justice Department, Mr. Trump and his team still had another strategy to look at.

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