On Thursday, POLITICO reported that new emails show a bitter struggle inside the Department of Justice as former President Donald Trump demanded a probe into a viral video of vote-counting in Georgia, which right-wing conspiracy theorists had falsely claimed was proof of voter fraud. POLITICO described the conspiracy theory as a "wacky voter fraud allegation."
"The dispute pitted a senior career section chief against one of the DOJ's top officials, with the FBI caught in the crossfire," reported Betsy Woodruff Swan and Nicholas Wu. "Trump's appointees at DOJ ultimately prevailed, and their investigation — a probe into a viral video from Georgia that didn't actually find any evidence of fraud — ended up playing a role in torpedoing the president's narrative. While Trump's opponents fretted that the FBI's involvement would undermine public confidence in elections and boost Republican talking points, it had the opposite effect."
Previous reports show a power struggle at the highest levels of the DOJ, with Trump considering civil division head Jeffrey Clark to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Clark, a loyal Trump partisan, pushed conspiracy theories about the election, including that China used "thermometers" to hack vote totals.
"Investigators have already conducted recorded interviews of the individuals at issue and such interviews reportedly revealed nothing to suggest nefarious activity with regard to the integrity of the election," wrote Corey Amundson, head of the DOJ's Public Integrity Section. "The FBI 're-interviewing' those individuals at this point and under the current circumstances risks great damage to the Department's reputation, including the possible appearance of being motivated by partisan concerns."
"This is putting us in a bad spot," wrote FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. "We need to get this PIN issue settled as to how to proceed. I feel like we are operating under an antiquated thought process here. Everyone understood that before the election we should not do these types of inquiries, but we are in a place right now in this election cycle in which these types of allegations are important to vet out, particularly when many in the country are still questioning the results."
While all of this was going on, Trump infamously also put pressure on Georgia election officials directly, demanding that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find extra votes for him.