Katie Benner for the NYT:
Even by the standards of President Donald J. Trump, it was an extraordinary Oval Office showdown. On the agenda was Mr. Trump’s desire to install a loyalist as acting attorney general to carry out his demands for more aggressive investigations into his unfounded claims of election fraud.
On the other side during that meeting on the evening of Jan. 3 were the top leaders of the Justice Department, who warned Mr. Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if he followed through. They received immediate support from another key participant: Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. According to others at the meeting, Mr. Cipollone indicated that he and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin, would also step down if Mr. Trump acted on his plan.
Mr. Trump’s proposed plan, Mr. Cipollone argued, would be a “murder-suicide pact,” one participant recalled. Only near the end of the nearly three-hour meeting did Mr. Trump relent and agree to drop his threat.
Mr. Cipollone’s stand that night is among the new details contained in a lengthy interim report prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee about Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency….
The interim report, released publicly on Thursday, describes how Justice Department officials scrambled to stave off a series of events during a period when Mr. Trump was getting advice about blocking certification of the election from a lawyer he had first seen on television and the president’s actions were so unsettling that his top general and the House speaker discussed the nuclear chain of command….
But, drawing in particular on interviews with Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue, both of whom were at the Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting, it brings to light new details that underscore the intensity and relentlessness with which Mr. Trump pursued his goal of upending the election, and the role that key government officials played in his efforts.
The report fleshes out the role of Jeffrey Clark, a little-known Justice Department official who participated in multiple conversations with Mr. Trump about how to upend the election and who pushed his superiors to send Georgia officials a letter that falsely claimed the Justice Department had identified “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.” Mr. Trump was weighing whether to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark. Of particular note was a Jan. 2 confrontation during which Mr. Clark seemed to both threaten and coerce Mr. Rosen to send the letter. He first raised the prospect that Mr. Trump could fire Mr. Rosen, and then said that he would decline any offer to replace Mr. Rosen as acting attorney general if Mr. Rosen sent the letter. Mr. Clark also revealed during that meeting that he had secretly conducted a witness interview with someone in Georgia in connection with election fraud allegations that had already been disproved.
The report raised fresh questions about what role Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, played in the White House effort to pressure the Justice Department to help upend the election. Mr. Perry called Mr. Donoghue to pressure him into investigating debunked election fraud allegations that had been made in Pennsylvania, the report said, and he complained to Mr. Donoghue that the Justice Department was not doing enough to look into such claims. Mr. Clark, the report said, also told officials that he had participated in the White House’s efforts at Mr. Perry’s request, and that the lawmaker took him to a meeting at the Oval Office to discuss voter fraud. That meeting occurred at around the same time that Mr. Perry and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus met at the White House to discuss the Jan. 6 certification of the election results.
The report confirmed that Mr. Trump was the reason that Mr. Pak hastily left his role as U.S. attorney in Atlanta, an area that Mr. Trump wrongly told people he had won. Mr. Trump told top Justice Department officials that Mr. Pak was a never-Trumper, and he blamed Mr. Pak for the F.B.I.’s failure to find evidence of mass election fraud there. During the Jan. 3 fight in the Oval Office, Mr. Donoghue and others tried to convince Mr. Trump not to fire Mr. Pak, as he planned to resign in just a few days. But Mr. Trump made it clear to the officials that Mr. Pak was to leave the following day, leading Mr. Donoghue to phone him that evening and tell him he should pre-emptively resign. Mr. Trump also went outside the normal line of succession to push for a perceived loyalist, Bobby L. Christine, to run the Atlanta office. Mr. Christine had been the U.S. attorney in Savannah, and had donated to Mr. Trump’s campaign.