“‘Assured failure’: Ex-White House lawyer provides new details of final days of Trump’s 2020 election gambit”


Donald Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Pat Philbin, was nervous.

It was just a few days until Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress was slated to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and Trump had suddenly resuscitated a plan to replace the leadership of the Justice Department with Jeffrey Clark, a little known DOJ official who Trump expected to mount a sweeping nationwide effort to help him remain in power.

So Philbin called Clark, a colleague from their days in private practice dating back to the 1990s and tried to talk him out of it.

“I tried to explain to him that it was a bad idea for multiple reasons,” Philbin recalled Tuesday at a long-delayed disbarment hearing for Clark. “He would be starting down a path of assured failure … If by some miracle somehow, it worked, there’d be riots in every major city in the country and it was not an outcome the country would accept.”…

When Philbin warned Clark that there would be riots in every major American city if Trump reversed the outcome of the election, Clark responded, “Well, Pat, that’s what the Insurrection Act is for,” Philbin recalled.

Clark, in Philbin’s telling, was referring to a 19th-century federal law that permits the president to use the military to quell civil unrest, an indication that he recognized the grave implications of his efforts. Though it was Philbin’s first time publicly discussing the exchange, the conversation was captured in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump — without naming either Philbin or Clark, though the identities of both speakers were easily discerned. On Tuesday, Philbin was asked to elaborate on this discussion.

“I don’t think I said anything on the phone. I just thought that that showed a lack of judgment,” he said. “Triggering riots in every major city in America, you’ve got to be really sure about what you’re doing and have no alternatives … In my estimation, that was not the sort of situation we were talking about.”

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