New Justice Department emails released by the House Tuesday give a look into the behind-the-scenes machinations around the shady departure of a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney in early January.
Byung “BJay” Pak was the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, which had become ground-zero in President Trump’s flailing attempts to overturn his defeat in the Peach State. On Jan. 4, Pak abruptly resigned from his role, despite previously telling colleagues he wouldn’t step down until the inauguration. Trump bypassed the career prosecutor who would have been in line for Pak’s job and installed another Georgia U.S. Attorney who had reputation for being a Trump loyalist.
It was later reported that the night before Pak announced his departure, he spoke to a top DOJ official, who reached out to Pak on behalf of the White House to express Trump’s displeasure with Pak’s refusal to gin up investigations into supposed voter fraud.
The new email dump hints at the conversation, and shows the DOJ official, Richard Donoghue, emailing Pak at around 10 p.m. on Jan. 3 with the request that Pak call him “ASAP.”
But the newly-released emails reveal that the Jan. 3 phone call wasn’t the only occasion DOJ leadership wanted to get in touch with Pak while Trump and his allies were on an unrelenting campaign to disrupt Biden’s win in Georgia.
On Jan. 1, Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen sent Pak’s phone number to another top DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark. Clark, then the acting head of the civil division, was at the time attempting get DOJ to do Trump’s election-reversal bidding and at one point, according to the New York Times, had plotted with Trump a potential overthrow of the DOJ leadership that was resisting Trump’s demands.
It’s unclear if Clark ever spoke to Pak. Pak declined to comment on the emails, while Clark could not be reached by TPM. But Clark told Rosen in a Jan. 2 email that he had spoken to a “source” and was at that moment “on the phone with the guy who took the video.”
It is not clear what video Clark was referring to, but other emails to the DOJ, according to Tuesday’s release, indicate that Trump-allies were trying to bring to the DOJ’s attention video footage they said warranted fraud investigations. One of the Trump allies pushing the Georgia allegations was Republican superlawyer Cleta Mitchell, who sent a Dec. 30 email to Mark Meadows flagging “video issues” in Fulton County, as well as a petition being filed to challenge the election. Meadows, then the White House chief of staff, forward Mitchell’s email to Rosen and asked “his team” to “look into these allegations of wrongdoing.” Another Jan. 1 email to Rosen from Meadows asked Rosen to “engage” Clark on alleged “signature match anomalies” in Fulton County.
On Jan. 2, the day after Clark was looking to get in touch with Pak, Mitchell and Meadows listened in on Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump demanded that Raffensperger find enough fraudulent votes to negate Biden’s victory. Trump seemed to grouse on the call that Pak was a “Never Trumper”
News reports on that call soon surfaced, and Trump’s comment was appeared to be particularly striking when on Jan. 4, after his late night call with Donoghue, Pak resigned his role.
By 8 a.m. that morning, Pak had sent resignation letters to Trump and Rosen, which were also included in the new email batch, as was a note Pak sent the other U.S. Attorneys bidding them farewell. Donaghue responded to that note: “You are a class act, my friend. Thank you.”