Whatever President Trump thought would happen in the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta, it doesn’t appear he will be getting what he was hoping for.
On a call Monday, as reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Acting U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine — who had been handpicked by Trump to lead the Atlanta office after the abrupt departure of Byung J. “BJay” Pak — told his new office that he was closing the two big remaining voter fraud cases from the 2020 election, because there was “no there, there.”
Christine, who is also the U.S. attorney in Savannah, said that when he was appointed to serve simultaneously as acting U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, he expected to find a “dump truck full” of election fraud cases waiting for him in his new role. He’s now learned that there were “very, very few” allegations worthy of investigating, according to the AJC report, which was based on a recording of the call.
Maybe Christine was that naive, and hadn’t heard or believed the dozens of assessments of Republican election officials in the state confirming the election was not plagued by fraud, despite Trump’s allegations.
But two other big things happened hours after Christine was appointed by Trump to lead the office. Democrats swept both seats in the Georgia runoffs and a mob — egged on by Trump’s claims of a stolen election – ransacked the Capitol while Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s victory. The certification happened anyway and now Trump will be impeached, and perhaps even convicted by the Senate.
For all Christine’s candor on the Monday call about how his voter fraud case epiphanies, he was much cagier about the circumstances of why he was selected to replace Pak.
Pak told his office the morning of Jan. 4 that he was leaving the role that day, rather than on Jan. 20 as he had initially planned. The next in line to take over the role was Kurt Erskine, the first assistant U.S. attorney and a longtime career prosecutor in the office.
It’s now known, thanks to the reporting of Wall Street Journal and others, that Pak was encouraged to leave early by a top Justice Department official the day before his abrupt departure.The official communicated to Pak that the President was not happy with the lack of action from the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate the claims of fraud Trump has falsely been pushing.
When U.S. attorneys elsewhere in the country have stepped down in recent weeks — it is not unusual for such presidential appointees not to wait for inauguration to leave their posts — their first assistants have stepped into their roles.
Why Trump intervened to install Christine in the role instead is still a mystery.
But Trump’s meddling in the line of succession came as he had been on unrelenting campaign to get Georgia officials to make moves that would validate his bogus claims of mass voter fraud. Trump’s effort appeared to be reaching a fever pitch as Congress was preparing for its certification vote.
Christine is seen as a Trump ally and one with further political ambitions, according to sources in Georgia’s legal world TPM has spoken to.
He donated the maximum-allowed contribution to Trump’s re-election campaign in September, AJC reported. Pak had given to Republican candidates in the past, but never to Trump, according AJC, and his political donations have ceased after he was appointed U.S. attorney in 2017
But Pak was not exactly considered a “Never Trumper” either, despite Trump’s apparent reference to him as such on his call with the Georgia secretary of state’s office the weekend before Pak departed. Many in Georgia believe that Pak — who, like Christine, previously served as a Republican representative in the statehouse — also has political ambitions.
For now, he is keeping mum about the circumstances of his departure, and has not responded to several inquiries from TPM.
It appears that Christine will be keeping his head down for the immediate future as well. Christine told the Atlanta office on Monday he found it to be “running like a sewing machine.”
Christine did play coy, however, when he was asked about whether he’d be resigning on Jan. 20.
“I simply don’t know how long that will be. Is it one day? Is it one week? Is it one year? I don’t know,” he said, according to AJC. “I assume it’s shorter rather than longer, but I don’t know.”