Experts were stunned by the bombshell report in The New York Times on Donald Trump's scheme to oust his acting Attorney General in an effort to overturn the 2020 election.
"The Justice Department's top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department's power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results," NYT correspondent Katie Benner reported Friday evening.
"The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump's continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president's entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark," the newspaper reported. "The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed? The answer was unanimous. They would resign."
"Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump's decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis," Benner reported.
Following publication, Benner appeared on MSNBC's "All In" with Chris Hayes.
Katie Benner www.youtube.com
Many were stunned by the report.
"Don't know what to say. I guess there was, I dunno, an almost-coup at DOJ so that this man no one really knew outside of the department could send a letter to Georgia politicians to stop the steal," is how Benner summed up the story on Twitter.
"Insanity!" is how veteran reporter Dan Rather described it.
Former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa analyzed the story from the perspective of Trump's upcoming impeachment trial.
"A key point in this piece: Trump was deterred by the possibility that there could be political consequences, and "recriminations." Evidence that not convicting him the first time made him feel invincible, and that impeaching him again was 100% the right move," Rangappa argued.
The reporter received an outpouring of support from her colleagues.
"When [Benner] first told me about this story even I was stunned after 4 years of covering the Trump Administration. This coda is one for the history books," NYT correspondent Adam Goldman tweeted.
NYT reporter Mark Mazzzetti praised the "amazing reporting" and described the story as "100% bonkers."
There were also the inevitable Watergate and Richard Nixon comparisons.
"SHADES OF NIXON'S SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE! I know you want to put Trump in the past--what sane person doesn't?--but READ THIS. Trump's despicable scheme to overthrow the election was broader than we knew," U.Va professor Larry Sabato said.
Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said it was worse than Watergate.
"When Barr left Dec. 23, I said I was alarmed about Trump and DOJ, and I wasn't confident Rosen would stand up to illegal efforts by Trump. Rosen did, and deserves credit for doing so. But what Trump tried to have DOJ do was worse than anything Nixon tried," Kristol charged.