DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials tried to overturn election

The Department of Justice building in Washington.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The top watchdog at the Department of Justice announced on Monday that it will investigate whether current or former officials improperly attempted to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in November’s election.

Michael Horowitz, the department’s inspector general, said in a statement that his office would look into “whether any former or current DOJ official engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election.”

“The investigation will encompass all relevant allegations that may arise that are within the scope of the OIG’s jurisdiction,” Horowitz said. He noted that the office of inspector general only has jurisdiction over current and former employees of the Department of Justice.

The announcement follows a report in The New York Times, published on Friday, that said a lawyer who was serving as the acting head of the DOJ’s civil division plotted with former President Donald Trump to cast doubt on the 2020 election results.

The Times reported that the attorney, Jeffrey Clark, drafted a letter for officials at the Justice Department to send to elected officials in Georgia falsely claiming that the vote in that state was being investigated.

Clark also reportedly informed Jeffrey Rosen, then the acting attorney general, that Trump planned to replace Rosen with Clark so that Clark could stop the congressional certification of Biden’s victory.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that Trump was motivated to fire Rosen after he refused to file lawsuits challenging Trump’s electoral loss directly at the Supreme Court. Trump wanted to elevate Clark, who he believed would be more willing to embrace his legal challenges, the Journal reported.

Trump ultimately dropped the plan to replace Rosen with Clark only after the rest of the Justice Department’s leadership threatened to resign, both the Times and the Journal reported.

Clark denied having a role in any plan to oust Rosen and told the Times that he could not discuss his communications with Trump or other DOJ lawyers.

“All my official communications were consistent with law,” he told the newspaper in a statement.

In a statement to the Journal, he said that “There were no ‘maneuver[s].’ There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president.”

“It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions.‚ĶObserving legal privileges, which I will adhere to even if others will not, prevents me from divulging specifics regarding the conversation,” Clark said.

The inspector general’s office said it will not comment on the investigation until it is completed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the inspector general to launch an investigation over the weekend.

“The Justice Dept Inspector General must launch an investigation into this attempted sedition now,” Schumer tweeted on Saturday.

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