A Justice Department watchdog has opened an investigation into whether current or former officials improperly attempted to exercise the department’s powers to overturn the presidential election results, his office said Monday.
The announcement by the office of Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz followed a New York Times article that detailed the efforts of Jeffrey Clark, acting head of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, to push the senior leaders to falsely and publicly assert this current election. fraud investigations cast doubt on the results of the electoral college. The stalemate prompted President Donald J. Trump to consider replacing then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen and installing Mr. Clark as the head of the department to carry out the plan.
“The Inspector General is opening an investigation into whether a former or current DOJ official made an improper attempt to have the DOJ seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” Horowitz said in a statement.
The investigation will encompass all allegations regarding the conduct of former and current departmental employees, although it would be limited to the Justice Department because other agencies fall outside Mr. Horowitz’s jurisdiction. He said he was announcing the investigation to reassure the public that the matter is being closely scrutinized.
On Saturday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, urged Mr. Horowitz to open an investigation, saying it was “inadmissible that a chief of Trump’s Justice Department conspires to overthrow the will of the people” .
This is the second known investigation into the actions of senior Justice Department officials in the final weeks of the Trump administration. Earlier this month, Horowitz opened an investigation into whether Trump administration officials pressured Byung J. Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, who abruptly resigned after he became clear to Mr. Trump that he would not take steps to cast doubt on overturning the election results, according to a person briefed on the investigation.
Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee said over the weekend that it had launched its own surveillance investigation into officials, including Mr. Clark.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the committee’s top Democrat, sent a letter to the Department of Justice saying he would investigate Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark’s efforts to use the agency. to advance Trump’s efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election. ”
Mr Durbin asked Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson to retain documents, emails and messages related to meetings between senior Justice Department officials, the White House and Mr Trump, as well as all communications related to Mr. Pak’s resignation.