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Justice Department inspector general investigates whether staffers sought to improperly overturn 2020 election result

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
·2 min read
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WASHINGTON – The Justice Department’s inspector general launched an investigation Monday into whether current or former department officials improperly sought to “alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election" in favor of former President Donald Trump.

The announcement follows disclosures last week that Trump considered firing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen during the last weeks of the president's administration in an effort to replace him with a loyalist to pursue challenges to election results. Rosen stepped into the job last month after his predecessor, William Barr, contradicted the president's accusations of widespread voter fraud.

“The investigation will encompass all relevant allegations that may arise that are within the scope of the (office’s) jurisdiction,” Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said.

Trump made unfounded accusations before and after the election that fraud caused his loss.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen took over after Attorney General William Barr stepped down Dec. 23, 2020.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen took over after Attorney General William Barr stepped down Dec. 23, 2020.

His plan, first reported by The New York Times, entailed replacing Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump appointed to lead the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and who served as acting chief of the Civil Division.

Had the effort proceeded, Clark, who had raised concerns about voter fraud within the department, would have been in a position to act on Trump's behalf to challenge election results in Georgia where the president had pressured state officials.

Clark didn't respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment. He told the Times that he offered legal advice to the White House, as is customary for any senior official, but he denied the report’s accusation that he sought to oust Rosen.

Trump's pressure campaign at the Justice Department continued until the very end of the administration, a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY.

"The pressure was real," said the source who is not authorized to comment publicly.

The inspector general has jurisdiction to investigate allegations concerning the conduct of former and current department employees but not other government officials.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating whether anyone in the Justice Department tried to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating whether anyone in the Justice Department tried to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

While he was attorney general, Barr dismissed an assertion Dec. 1 that voting machines "were programmed essentially to skew the election results.” He said the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security “haven’t found anything to substantiate that.”

Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is being sued for $1.3 billion for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems, a company that makes voting machines that was criticized repeatedly during the aftermath of the election. Giuliani said the company is trying to stifle free speech and threatened a countersuit.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ IG investigates whether staffers tried to alter 2020 election