Former US president Donald Trump nearly ousted his Acting Attorney General in favour of a Justice Department lawyer who would have helped him overturn the election results — but backed down after senior officials vowed to resign en masse, according to a new report.
The New York Times, citing interviews with four anonymous former Trump administration officials, describes how Jeffrey Clark, an unassuming lawyer who led the department's civil division, was nearly installed as the Acting AG to replace Jeffrey Rosen, who had resisted Trump's entreaties to bolster his legal battles and put pressure on state legislatures.
According to The Times, Rosen rejected Trump's requests for the Justice Department to file legal briefs supporting his allies' lawsuits seeking to overturn election results, and to appoint special counsels to investigate voter fraud.
Clark was reportedly embraced by Trump due to his support for the president's claims that the election was stolen.
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The New York Times says Trump's decision not to sack Rosen "came only after Rosen and Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Trump's reality show The Apprentice, albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis".
Ultimately, senior Department of Justice officials on a conference call agreed that if Rosen was replaced, they would all resign. Trump was persuaded to keep Rosen in place, fearing the furore mass resignations at the Justice Department would cause, the Times reports.
The report comes after Trump made his first public comments since leaving office, telling a journalist at his golf club near Mar-a-Lago that he would make a comeback in some form.
"We'll do something, but not just yet," Trump said while having lunch on Friday (Saturday NZT), minutes after House Democrats announced they would send an article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday.
"The Senate will conduct a trial," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor of the chamber, adding that Senators would "have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the erection" against the United States.
The unfortunate slip-up (he meant to say "insurrection") generated much amusement online. "We're in for a long, hard trial next week," one Twitter user wrote.