The Justice Department inspector general has begun examining the abrupt departure this month of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta after then-President Donald Trump complained officials in Georgia were not doing enough to find election fraud, according to people familiar with the matter.
The investigation into the sudden resignation of Byung J. “BJay” Pak by Inspector General Michael Horowitz appears to be in its early stages. Investigators have not yet talked to Pak, and it is unclear how broad their inquiry will be, the people familiar with the matter said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing probe.
Pak unexpectedly announced Jan. 4 that he was stepping down that day as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, surprising many in his office. Trump then bypassed Pak’s top deputy in selecting a temporary replacement, raising questions among legal observers about the possibility of political interference in law enforcement work.
Pak’s resignation came a day after The Washington Post reported on an extraordinary call in which Trump urged Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his election defeat in that state. Legal scholars said the request from Trump was an obvious abuse of power that might warrant criminal investigation. In the same conversation, Trump cited a “never-Trumper U.S. attorney” in Georgia — seemingly a reference to Pak — and hinted vaguely and baselessly that Raffensperger’s refusal to act on his unfounded fraud claims constituted a “criminal offense.”
Pak declined to comment for this story, as did a spokeswoman for Horowitz. On Thursday, the law firm Alston & Bird announced that Pak would be joining as a partner in its litigation and trial practice group in the Atlanta office. He had worked at the firm previously and had served as a state lawmaker before Trump appointed him as a U.S. attorney in 2017.
The circumstances of Pak’s departure remain something of a mystery. Two people familiar with the matter said Pak received a call from a senior Justice Department official in Washington that led him to believe he should resign. Trump had been upset with what he perceived as the agency’s lack of action on his unfounded claims in Georgia and across the country, people familiar with the matter said at the time.
Trump then appointed Bobby Christine, the top federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Georgia, to replace Pak, and Christine brought with him to the new office two prosecutors who had recently been assigned to monitor possible election fraud. Spokespeople for the U.S. attorney’s offices in the Northern and Southern Districts of Georgia declined to comment.
Friday, January 22, 2021
The most immediate threat to Cheney — a push by Trump loyalists to oust her as conference chair — has gained momentum inside the House GOP, although the process is complicated and could still sputter out. But at least 107 Republicans, or just over a majority, have communicated to the leaders of that effort that they would support removing Cheney from leadership on a secret ballot, according to multiple GOP sources involved in the effort. Others are threatening to boycott future conference meetings if she remains in power.
And at least two members have privately signaled interest in replacing Cheney as the No. 3 Republican, sources say: Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, two New Yorkers who both sprang to popularity in the party after fiercely defending Trump during his first impeachment.
If Cheney does lose her post, it will be the latest sign that the Trumpification of the Republican Party isn't stopping anytime soon, even after the ex-president flew off to Mar-a-Lago with a disgraced legacy in Washington. Some say the Cheney fight has already become a proxy battle for the heart and soul of the splintered GOP.
“She has proven that she is out of step with the vast majority of our conference and the Republicans across the nation,” said freshman Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), who is spearheading the resolution calling on Cheney to step down. “A lot of people within our conference have a problem with it.”
“There are other people who are absolutely interested in filling that void, I will tell you,” he added of potential Cheney replacements. “And they would have broad-based support.”
Long-simmering frustrations with Cheney — once a fast-rising star in the GOP — have spiked inside the GOP, especially among its right flank, according to interviews with over a dozen lawmakers and aides. Members are not only angry with her impeachment vote, but also furious that Cheney announced her position a day ahead — giving Democrats ample time to use her statement in all of their talking points, while also providing cover to the nine other Republicans who backed impeachment.
A compilation video of the multiple times Democrats and news media cited Cheney’s statement on impeachment has even been circulating in some GOP circles. As conference chair, Cheney is in charge of the party’s messaging efforts.
But several other senior Republicans think Cheney ultimately hangs on to her post, arguing most Republicans will have little appetite for creating more chaos in the conference at a time when the party is desperate to unite.
And behind the scenes, Cheney has been doing a bit of damage control: she has been making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out and ensure the party is unified going forward, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
“Removing Liz as the Conference Chair when she did exactly what the Leader told all of us to do – vote her conscience – sends a bad message,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “And I’ve spoken with many members of our Conference who have expressed their support for Liz and her leadership. I have confidence she will remain in her position and she has my support.”
While GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) have both said they want Cheney to remain in her job, McCarthy also told reporters Thursday that “questions need to be answered,” such as the “style in which things were delivered.” Members will have an opportunity to air those grievances at next week’s closed-door conference meeting, McCarthy added.
Walk on road, hm? Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get the squish just like grape.
Besides the nearly 420,000 dead from COVID-19, the next major casualty of the Trump regime is trust in the press, as now a majority of American no longer trust news at all.
Trust in traditional media has declined to an all-time low, and many news professionals are determined to do something about it.
Why it matters: Faith in society's central institutions, especially in government and the media, is the glue that holds society together. That glue was visibly dissolving a decade ago, and has now, for many millions of Americans, disappeared entirely.
By the numbers: For the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, according to data from Edelman's annual trust barometer shared exclusively with Axios. Trust in social media has hit an all-time low of 27%. 56% of Americans agree with the statement that "Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations." 58% think that "most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public."
When Edelman re-polled Americans after the election, the figures had deteriorated even further, with 57% of Democrats trusting the media and only 18% of Republicans.
Our media is now badly wounded, and time will tell if the wounds are fatal or not. But without trust in media, America will absolutely fall to the next autocratic monster, and it will never recover.
Felix Salmon goes on to suggest that America's CEOs, who do have a very high level of trust in the Edelman polling, are the key to saving the media.
How it works: Media outlets can continue to report reliable facts, but that won't turn the trend around on its own. What's needed is for trusted institutions to visibly embrace the news media. CEOs (a/k/a the fourth branch of government) are at or near the top of Edelman's list of trusted institutions.
By the numbers: 61% of Trump voters say that they trust their employer's CEO. That compares to just 28% who trust government leaders, and a mere 21% who trust journalists.
The bottom line: CEOs have long put themselves forward as the people able to upgrade America's physical infrastructure. Now it's time for them to use the trust they've built up to help rebuild our civic infrastructure.
I'm not convinced that this is the answer, as I'd argue corporatization of the media is indeed the largest single problem in the media today. But Salmon is right that with four out of five Trump voters refusing to trust or listen to the media, reporting the facts won't work by itself.
What else needs to be done?
Reforming the corporate media and big tech, for starters, but that's a huge undertaking. But that needs to be part of Biden's plan.
- Three National Guard soldiers were killed during a routine training mission in upstate New York, the crash occurred on Wednesday night south of Rochester.
- In his first overture to Russia since taking office, President Biden has offered to extend the START nuclear treaty that Donald Trump threatened to scrap last year.
- Senate Republicans say President Biden's immigration agenda has little chance of getting past a filibuster, with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey calling passage "a Herculean task".
- Both the House and Senate have quickly approved a waiver to allow Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Pentagon.
- Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel has been appointed the new chair of the FCC, replacing outgoing Republican Ajit Pai who left this week, Pai's replacement is expected to be confirmed quickly.