The early January departure of a Georgia U.S. attorney swept up in then-President Trump’s anger about the election results is now being probed by the Justice Department’s inspector general, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.
Atlanta U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak, a Republican appointed to the post by Trump, abruptly announced on Jan. 4 that he was stepping down from the job that day, after previously indicating to his associates that he’d stay on until Jan. 20.
The inspector general probe is just getting started, Washington Post reported, and Pak himself has not yet been interviewed for it.
After Pak resigned, Trump replaced Pak with a U.S. attorney based in Savannah. Trump’s intervention disrupted the normal line of succession, which would have had top career prosecutor officer step into the role.
Savannah U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine brought with him to Atlanta two prosecutors from his home office — another unconventional move.
The developments rang alarm bells in the legal community in Georgia because they unfolded as President Trump was on a final push to gin up bogus election fraud claims about the Joe Biden’s win in the state. Trump seemed to call Pak a “Never Trumper” on a Jan. 2 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump also pressured Raffensperger to “find” the votes that would have let him overcome Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state.
The next day, Jan. 3., a top Justice Department official communicated to Pak the White House’s dissatisfaction with Pak’s failure to investigate Trump’s false claims. The official encouraged Pak to leave his post immediately, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of that call.
Much of the circumstances of Pak’s departure remain a mystery, as do Trump’s expectations when he filled the vacancy with Christine, who is perceived in Georgia as a devout supporter of the former President’s.
On a private call last week with the Atlanta office that was leaked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Christine dodged his coworkers’ questions about why he was selected over the career prosecutor. Christine did acknowledge that he expected to find a “dump truck full” of election fraud cases waiting for him at his new office — hence his decision to bring in two more prosecutors — but had since come to learn that there was not anything to the fraud claims that he said he had seen promoted on television.