And ultimately, the flood of shocking new disclosures means that a potential new White House campaign by Trump in 2024 would come with the most grave implications for American democracy in decades. Given Trump’s record of impunity, a new administration could be stocked with loyalists who would not balk at abuses of power — like his efforts to overturn the election, which were blocked this time around by officials in the Justice Department and in GOP-led states.
‘Frightening’ maneuvering at Trump’s Justice Department.
The latest evidence of Trump’s anti-democratic mendacity came in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday and Saturday by two top former senior Justice Department officials.
Another Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, told CNN’s Manu Raju that after hearing Saturday’s testimony from former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, he was struck by “how close the country came to total catastrophe” earlier this year.
Both Rosen, and the other official — Richard Donoghue, then the acting deputy attorney general — put another Trump-appointed official, Jeffrey Clark, at the center of an effort to help the then-President undermine the election results and to potentially oust Clark’s bosses who were resisting Trump’s efforts.
A source familiar said the testimony provided new details about a January 3 White House meeting in which Trump had Rosen and Clark effectively audition for the job of acting attorney general. The President eventually decided not to replace Rosen with Clark. Rosen and Donoghue both testified that Trump did not order them to do anything illegal and eventually accepted the Justice Department could not claim voter fraud when there was no evidence that it took place.
Durbin told CNN’s Dana Bash that he could not yet comment on details of the testimony but that there would be a report. He also said he would like Clark to testify about his role. Clark’s lawyer declined to comment to CNN.
The Illinois senator said that he was surprised by “just how directly, personally involved the President was, the pressure he was putting on Jeffrey Rosen.” He added: “It was real, very real. And it was very specific. This President’s not subtle when he wants something, the former President. He is not subtle when he wants something.”
Asked by Bash whether Trump tried to get Rosen to overturn election results, Durbin replied: “It was not that direct, but he was asking him to do certain things related to states’ election returns, which he refused to do.”
“He was being asked by the White House, the leadership in the White House, to meet with certain people who had these wild, bizarre theories of why that election wasn’t valid. And he refused to do it,” the chairman said.
Durbin praised Rosen for standing firm against the ex-President’s anti-democratic schemes and laid out a scenario surrounding the resignation of ex-Attorney General William Barr that Trump considered and that mirrored the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” of the Watergate scandal.
“The President was looking for a green light from an attorney general. Bill Barr reached a point where he couldn’t do it anymore. And Rosen stepped in, and he was not prepared to do it. And the President said, ‘we will find another one,'” Durbin said, in an apparent reference to Clark.
A timeline of gross abuses of power
The disclosures came just days after it emerged that notes written by Donoghue about a December 2020 call show that the ex-President pressured Rosen to declare that the election was fraudulent in a bid to help Republican members of Congress overturn Biden’s win.
The shocking disclosures of the past few weeks come as Trump appears to be at least preparing the groundwork for a future presidential campaign. The former President has already grievously damaged faith in the electoral system by convincing millions of his supporters that he was cheated out of power in a free and fair election that he clearly lost.
And the Republican Party’s failure to permit any consequences for his assault on democracy — and the efforts of many of its lawmakers and media propagandists to scrub history and to invent a completely new reality of the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection — are effectively clearing the way for his political rehabilitation.
The latest developments also undercut the arguments of Republican senators who were unwilling to convict the ex-President in his second impeachment trial earlier this year over the Capitol insurrection. The idea that the process was unnecessary since Trump was no longer in power and could do no more harm is now being contradicted by evidence of his strongman behavior and his attempts to rebuild his political career.
That a candidate who is guilty of such clear abuses of power and is possessed of such autocratic and anti-democratic impulses is a viable prospect for the presidential nomination of one of America’s major political parties is a commentary on the extraordinary current state of politics. It also means that whether or not he eventually runs, Trump’s legacy of epic political corruption will pose a dire threat to the democratic traditions most people saw as invulnerable to challenge.