Newly revealed letter unveils a top DOJ official's failed plan to overturn the election for Trump

Newly revealed letter unveils a top DOJ official's failed plan to overturn the election for Trump
President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence walk along the Colonnade of the White House prior to a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

The aftermath of the United States' 2020 presidential election was unprecedented in U.S. history; never before had a president who was decisively voted out of office refused to concede, made false and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud, and tried to overturn the election results in states that he lost. One of those states was Georgia, and according to new reporting from ABC News, officials for the U.S. Department of Justice rejected a fellow DOJ official's request to possibly overturn now-President Joe Biden's victory in that state.

In an article posted on ABC News' website on August 3, journalists Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin report that "e-mails dated December 28, 2020 show the former acting head of DOJ's civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulating a draft letter — which he wanted then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to sign off on — urging Georgia's governor and other top officials to convene the state legislature into a special session so lawmakers could investigate claims of voter fraud."

The draft letter, which has been posted on ABC News' website, was addressed to three Republicans: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Georgia State Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller. And it reads, "The Department of Justice is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President of the United States. The Department will update you as we are able on investigatory progress, but at this time we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia."

The draft letter also says, "While the Department of Justice believe[s] the Governor of Georgia should immediately call a special session to consider this important and urgent matter, if he declines to do so, we share with you our view that the Georgia General Assembly has implied authority under the Constitution of the United States to call itself into special session for [t]he limited purpose of considering issues pertaining to the appointment of Presidential Electors."

In December 2020, Trump was furious when Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, rejected his claim that widespread voter fraud had occurred in Georgia. Both Kemp and Raffensperger acknowledged that Biden legitimately won Georgia, which was heavily Republican in the past but has evolved into a swing state. Biden's victory in Georgia in November 2020 was followed by two more statewide Democratic victories when the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won special U.S. Senate races in Georgia in January 2021, giving Democrats a narrow Senate majority and making Chuck Schumer Senate majority leader rather than Senate minority leader.

Other prominent Republicans who rejected the Big Lie — Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud — in December 2020 included then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Although Barr had been one of Trump's most outspoken loyalists and defended him vigorously during the Ukraine scandal and Trump's first impeachment, he rejected Trump's bogus voter fraud claims. And Trump was furious when Barr told the Associated Press that he had "not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome of the election."

Donoghue, according to Faulders and Mallin, flatly rejected Clark's request to send out the draft letter — saying, "There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this. While it may be true that the Department 'is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President' (something we typically would not state publicly) the investigations that I am aware of relate to suspicions of misconduct that are of such a small scale that they simply would not impact the outcome of the Presidential Election."

Donoghue quoted Barr in his response to Clark, saying, "Given that, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the Department would recommend that a State assemble its legislature to determine whether already-certified election results should somehow be overriden by legislative action."

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