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Finding Intent in Trump’s Actions

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 24, 2021

Senate Republicans seem to be betting that pushing an impeachment trial for Donald Trump by a few more days will help cement the arguments to dismiss the idea that he incited anti-democratic attacks on his own government.

Instead, new disclosures from journalists are making the case more forcefully that there is a pattern over the last months of doing anything and everything, legal or not, constitutional or not, to throw out election results in order to declare Trump the winner. It was exactly in pursuit of that goal that Trump pointed his red-hatted mob toward the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a riotous Insurrection attempt that left five dead and him facing impeachment.

Now come disclosures in The New York Times that Trump and a Justice Department lawyer named Jeffry Clark had sought to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and use the Justice Department to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn the state’s presidential election results.

And The Washington Post tells us that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is examining pressure on U.S. Atty. Byung J. “BJay” Pak in Atlanta to join the efforts to find election fraud to overturn the results. Instead, Pak resigned hurriedly.

By themselves, each incident reflects outrageous misuse of the Oval Office for personal gain. Together, they help show just the kind of pattern of abuse over Trump’s behaviors since November as to provide evidence of intent that some senators will say is still needed to convict.

Without conviction on impeachment charges, the Senate cannot vote to bar Trump from seeking election again. To convict, two-thirds of the senators who actually lived through the insurrection attempt must agree to convict — or 17 Republican votes that , from public remarks, still seem a long-shot.

The details

The gist of the Times story: Justice Department lawyer Clark, working up a way to bolster Trump’s claims of fraud, and acting Atty. Gen. Rosen, met with Trump at the White House to outline — and disagree — on a plan to dump Rosen, replace him with Clark, and go after Georgia officials. When outlined, Justice Department officials said they would all resign — all attributed to sources who declined to go public.

The image of mass resignation dominating over any election challenge persuaded Trump to abandon the plan, said The Times.

Remember, the continuing obsession with voter fraud was enough to chase even the Trump-loving former Atty. Gen. William P. Barr from the job. Apparently, this previously unreported set of actions followed attempts to get Rosen to appoint special counsels to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election machines that Trump had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes to Joe Biden.

The Post account of the Pak resignation had followed publications of the tape in which Trump urged Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his election loss in that state. Legal scholars said the request from Trump was an obvious abuse of power that might warrant criminal investigation.

The reports detail a pattern, of course. In addition to his public remarks and after Barr’s departure on Dec 23, Trump also reportedly had summoned Rosen to file legal briefs supporting lawsuits seeking to overturn his election defeat, but Rosen refused, repeating that Justice had found no evidence of widespread fraud, as Barr had argued.

After the meeting, The Times said, Trump continued to press Rosen, arguing that the department was not fighting hard enough for him. Enter Clark, who had been appointed the acting head of the civil division was also the head of the department’s environmental and natural resources division, who told Rosen that the internet was filled with fraud talk, if not evidence.

Trump was focused on Georgia, and complained that U.S. attorney Pak, was not trying to find evidence for false election claims. Pak abruptly resigned.

On Sunday night of New Year’s weekend, Trump met and heard the proposal to replace Rosen with Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results and to write to Georgia lawmakers to halt the res8ults — long after deadline for election challenges. Then came the publication of the tape with Raffensperger; days later came the Washington rallies and the attack on the Capitol.

The takeaway

The impeachment charge against Trump is for inciting the mob attack of Trump supporters on the Capitol on the day that election certification documents were delivered.

Trump’s defenders argue first that the impeachment clauses should not apply to now past-presidents, and substantively that Trump’s literal words in his rally that told his followers to eschew weakness and pointed them at the Capitol were not inciting. The only blame should be on the rioters — and, magically, on Democrats who would not allow a hearing of the baseless election fraud issues once again.

But in a legal sense, to say nothing of the general political sense, the speech is not divorced from a string of other actions — of which this new reported incident is another part that goes to show the intent of Trump’s obsession with overturning already accepted election results.

Three things strike me as weird: First, why is it that the best information about the Trump steamroller attempt continues to come from news reporters rather than Congress or the Justice Department itself? Why is it that what dissuaded Trump were the optics of a mass resignation at Justice rather than the right and wrong of the issue? And what does it say that Republican defenders of Trump will go to any lengths to ignore both reality and any information that tends to show Trump misused his office?

How is it that Trump could walk away untouched in these matters?


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