Now We Know Why Jeffrey Rosen Has Been Silent, How About Chris Wray?

Since the attempted coup, both Jeffrey Rosen and Chris Wray (and Wray’s then-Deputy David Bowdich) were almost silent about the attack. A week after the attack, Rosen  a video in the middle of the night, explaining what he had done during the coup.

The day after, Wray released a short statement. More than a week later, he spoke at a closed-press meeting on inauguration security. Neither provided the kind of daily updates one would expect after such an attack.

Last night (as Rayne laid out here), NYT reported on why Rosen was so silent: because he’s a witness in what should be a criminal investigation into how the attack relates to the effort to overturn the election.

As the NYT lays out, in the days leading up to the coup attempt, Trump already tried to replace Rosen with someone, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, who would be willing to take steps to overturn the vote.

The effort to force Rosen to use DOJ resources to undermine a democratic election started on December 15, the day after Bill Barr resigned.

When Mr. Trump said on Dec. 14 that Attorney General William P. Barr was leaving the department, some officials thought that he might allow Mr. Rosen a short reprieve before pressing him about voter fraud. After all, Mr. Barr would be around for another week.

Instead, Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Rosen to the Oval Office the next day. He wanted the Justice Department to file legal briefs supporting his allies’ lawsuits seeking to overturn his election loss. And he urged Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels to investigate not only unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud, but also Dominion, the voting machines firm.

Then, over the weekend in advance of the certification, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark told Rosen Trump was going to make him Attorney General so he could chase Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories.

On New Year’s Eve, the trio met to discuss Mr. Clark’s refusal to hew to the department’s conclusion that the election results were valid. Mr. Donoghue flatly told Mr. Clark that what he was doing was wrong. The next day, Mr. Clark told Mr. Rosen — who had mentored him while they worked together at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis — that he was going to discuss his strategy to the president early the next week, just before Congress was set to certify Mr. Biden’s electoral victory.

Unbeknown to the acting attorney general, Mr. Clark’s timeline moved up. He met with Mr. Trump over the weekend, then informed Mr. Rosen midday on Sunday that the president intended to replace him with Mr. Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. He said that Mr. Rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general, leaving Mr. Rosen speechless.

In a replay of the 2004 Hospital Hero moment, the others involved (including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone) agreed they’d resign en masse if Trump replaced Rosen, which led him to back off the plan.

NYT had four sources for this story, all of whom fear — even after Trump has been relegated to Florida — retaliation.

This account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.

Clark claimed there were errors in this story, but ultimately he claimed Executive Privilege (his statement to WaPo on the topic, which I’ve used here, is more expansive).

In a statement that seemed to draw on language in the New York Times account, Clark said, “I categorically deny that I ‘devised a plan . . . to oust’ Jeff Rosen. . . . Nor did I formulate recommendations for action based on factual inaccuracies gleaned from the Internet.”

“My practice is to rely on sworn testimony to assess disputed factual claims,” Clark said. “There were no ‘maneuver[s].’ There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the President. It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions. . . . Observing legal privileges, which I will adhere to even if others will not, prevent me from divulging specifics regarding the conversation.”

The WaPo version of this story names all who were involved in the confrontation with Trump (though the sources for the story are likely, in part, their aides).

At the meeting were Trump, Clark and Rosen, along with Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general; Steven A. Engel, the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, the people familiar with the matter said. The people said Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and Cipollone pushed against the idea of replacing Rosen, and warned of a mass resignation.

Clark says he will only respond to a sworn statement. By all means, the impeachment managers should demand sworn testimony, from all involved.

Of course, that would mean Pat Cipollone, who led the former President’s defense in his first impeachment trial, would be asked about the second time Trump tried to use government resources to cheat. Steve Engel, who authorized the withholding of a whistleblower complaint describing Trump’s earlier attempt, would also testify. Rosen, who participated in having DOJ chase Sidney Powell’s conspiracy theories about Mike Flynn, would be asked to testify about why the conspiracy theories about Dominion machines were any less credible than the Flynn ones. And Donoghue, who served as a filter for some of the conspiracy theories Rudy Giuliani had been fed by men who have since been named Russian agents, would be asked to testify about why Rudy wasn’t a credible source.

Rosen was silent in his final two weeks, presumably, for fear he might get fired and replaced by someone who would be more pliant to a coup attempt. But he — and the three others — are also witnesses to a larger plot that ended up in violence and death.

I wonder if Chris Wray has similar evidence he’ll be asked to share.

60 replies
  1. Alan Charbonneau says:

    All through Trump’s reign, people speculated about what would bring him down. Things like the Mueller investigation, Charlottesville, Helsinki, impeachment #1, etc.

    Now, the horrific assault on the Capitol, his role in it, and the conspiracy behind it are going to crush him and many of his enablers. Trump is finding out the difference between “emboldened” and “invulnerable”. Though it is coming after he left office, justice will be done.

    • John B. says:

      I sure hope you’re right but I don’t have much faith in the system these days. Powerful people tend to get off with little it no culpability. And the R’s are already normalizing the riot and attack on the Capitol.

      • Norskeflamthrower says:

        “…but I don’t have much faith in the system these days.”

        Yep, “the system” has worked just the way it was designed to work and right now the only “institution” that remains inviolate is the horribly bloated military, especially the air force, the military’s evangelical branch. No, we’re a looooong way from outta this. But the only way we’re gunna know that we’re actually gunna be done with this incarnation of American fascism is when Trump, Bannon and Stone are doing hard time and the 2022 midterms give the Democrats 7 or eight new senators.

  2. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    That’s the thing about Wray – I see people on Twitter saying, “He’s not so bad”, or “give him a chance”.

    There is no way the pack of cowards and morons around Trump were discrete. They talked among themselves, they complained and commiserated. That gets around. Wray would have heard and been aware of so many predicates and yet it appears he was mostly passive in response.

    He can’t be trusted to do the right thing if he learns of corruption or wrongdoing. And Doug Jones deserves his job.

    • bmaz says:

      Eh, I dunno, am conflicted on Wray. Willing to give e him a shot and let Garland get a feel. The DFBI is supposed to be non-political and have a 10 year term, and not be bandied about like Trump did. Let’s try to get back to that.

      • Badger Robert says:

        For some reason President Biden wants Wray to continue as director. Wray was constrained in what he could do publicly, because he could not reveal how much he was collecting and recording about the coup attempt.
        Just because the code breakers have cracked the code doesn’t mean they can immediately use the information they have gathered.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. That reason appears to be because that is how it is supposed to be, and Biden has not yet seen good cause for terminating Wray. And that is how it is supposed to be.

          • BobCon says:

            There may also be a concern in the new administration that firing a director before they have a good picture of what is going on will slow down what they want to do.

            They may have assurances from Wray in terms of cooperation and personnel that the most expeditious thing right now is to keep him on.

            • Norskeflamthrower says:

              “They may have assurances from Wray in terms of cooperation and personnel that the most expeditious thing right now is to keep him on.”

              I agree but only as far as holding on to him in order to keep everyone else over there sitting in place until they can kettle ’em all up and separate the witnesses from the perpetrators.

              • Lady4Real says:

                Wray’s FBI is investigating Hunter Biden. At this point, it would be unseemly for President Biden to fire Wray as it will appear to be to protect his son. Also, the rank and file are solidly behind Wray and Mr. Biden is said to not to want to destroy morale any more than what’s already been done to damage it.

                  • Voxxy says:

                    I’m not hoping to to earn your wrath, but I did read in a couple articles that Hunter was being investgated for tax evasion and that is why Wray was staying. Because Biden would look like he was protecting Hunter. I have not looked into it, it could be bunk and bullshit, but as for the poster in their message above, I can say I read about the same thing. Doesn’t make it true or anything and I can’t recall the articles to be helpful of course, but maybe that is the source of said comment above? Ok I’ll crawl back into being a wallfly. Not trying to be rude or anything, because I think I know better after reading you guys for at least 3 years. This is like my 4th comment or something so please know I appreciate alll the work you all do on this site.

      • Stacey says:

        I am conflicted on Wray as well. I sort of never bought the line that we was a stand-up straight shooter we could trust because we had just had so many people be called that who so obviously were NOT–Bill Barr comes to mind (even after we knew what he did for his Iran Contra clients), Rosenstein, etc. etc. etc. So I wasn’t going to hold faith in that.

        But over time, he MAY have walked the tight rope better than others and done the ‘strategic staying’ thing better than others. And, I think the chances he’s a witness to more crimes than he can count right now is probably quite high, thus silence. If that turns out not to be the case, we’ll know that at some point, but I don’t have that sense right now.

        • bmaz says:

          For now, yes, exactly. And let the new AG Garland have the chance to evaluate and weigh in. We’ll see.

    • PeterS says:

      I don’t pretend to know the competing pressures Wray was under, so I am inclined to give him a chance. To put it another way, if he’s good enough for the Biden administration he’s good enough for me.

    • emptywheel says:

      I keep focusing on Bowdich bc he was far more involved in treating those who investigated Trump as pariahs, and he almost certainly played the decisive role in downplaying this risk. He’s gone — Good riddance!

      While I think Wray showed a real lack of courage, his FBI did investigate white supremacists and I think it likely he did it to avoid being fired.

    • subtropolis says:

      There’s kind of a really big investigation underway, which could be the most consequential in US history. I don’t fault Wray for not blabbing about what he knows right now.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      These are all good points and it does make sense to wait for the AG to get a feel for him. I got it in my head that Wray was a dominionist or part of opus dei, but I can’t actually find any sources that say that.

      It just sucks for so many years in a row now to have a conservative Republican FBI director that you always need to keep an eye on.

    • Cate Ellington says:

      Couldnt agree with you more. Wray kept his job for one reason. Trump saw him as a loyal soldier.
      And it blows my mind people forget that Wray was quietly handing Republicans sensitive docs they could cherry pick while completely stonewalling Legit Asks by Democrats In House!

      • bmaz says:

        You understand that Congress set a ten year term for FBI Director, right? And that it was the idea to take politics out of it, right? Let’s not be partisan reactionaries and see if Wray performs appropriately under Biden before summarily trashing him into the dustbin. Let’s maybe try to do better than knee-jerk politicization as Trump heinously did.

  3. joel fisher says:

    You cannot make this shit up. What’s the best way to get the truth of the dozens of separate criminal scams Trump had going? Let his lackeys know that their rich lives in white suburbia could be coming to a crashing end: you won’t be taking the kids to soccer practice for 3-5 years but they can visit you on Sundays. Regular criminals don’t fear prison like silk sleeve lawyers do so the Trump bunch of soon-to-be disbarred lawyers will talk. The sooner asses are under subpoena and in a witness chair the better.

    • Joseph Andrews says:

      I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a historian or political scientist.

      But after reading the joel fisher comment, I smiled.

      I’m interested in seeing justice visit those abetting our now-former president, and I think Mr. Fisher is onto something.

      Let’s require that the helpers sign up for something like the old game show: “Truth…or Consequences”.

      Which for some might be “Truth…and Consequences”.

  4. Joseph Andrews says:

    …just a thought:

    Bob Woodward’s been awful quiet the past few short weeks.

    Wonder what he’s been up to? (wink emoji)

    • Bay State Librul says:

      I heard he is writing a book with Robert Costa, both of the Washington Post. The book will be about the final days of Don the Con and new beginning of Joe.

      • Max404 says:

        That’s really interesting. I was intrigued to learn, on inauguration day, that Caitlin Collins had been promoted to chief White House correspondent, while Costa was on AF1 to Florida, doing what? Gathering notes for the book, it seems.

        Looking forward to the book, and to the witness list of the upcoming Senate trial. The assistant impeachment manager Mitch McConnell is up to something, no doubt. His political life depends on serving up Trump to “justice”. Nothing less than conviction will suffice.

  5. BobCon says:

    What is the likelihood that there is written evidence in terms of notes and memos? And who controls it now that Trump is out of office?

    Previous Nixon and Trump investigations happened while they were still in office, and compliance with demands for evidence by Congress and prosecutors was complicated by presidential authority resisting those claims. I’d be curious what changes if the current Administration is either neutral or willing to hand over evidence and refuses to appeal subpoenas.

    I realize witness statements may still be hard to obtain if they don’t want to comply. But it’s not so clear to me when it comes to the paperwork.

      • BobCon says:

        That kind of simplistic cynicism is not how it works in a big bureaucracy. This isn’t a secret recording system with one set of tapes, and it is worth reading this blog in more detail to see what kind of evidence can be teased out of even partial documentation.

      • Peterr says:

        No. Proper authoritarians believe that they are invulnerable, and they know you have to have the paperwork in order, so that your minions know what to do as they carry out your every whim.

        See Germany, 1933-45.

        • rip says:

          I guess that means that Trump wasn’t a proper authoritarian. Witness his little-handed attempt at shredding documents and hoping they would just disappear (now being pieced back together.)

          Trump wasn’t a proper anything other than megalomaniac and all the other terms that are normally applied to him, except great, stable, biggest, largely, etc.

      • BroD says:

        However, one suspects the document destruction efforts were conducted with the haphazard incompetence which generally characterized the Trump administration.

      • Stacey says:

        And apparently anyone who’d been around Trump for 10 minutes realized that they should probably secretly record him to cover their own asses. He personally was never likely to leave a written trail–famously no email, etc. just tweeting, but he spoke to anyone who’d listen and who knows how many people were ‘listening’ really well.

  6. PeterS says:

    Not to downplay what Trump and this bozo Clark were up to, but it was interesting to hear the ex-DOJ guy on the Rachel Maddow show suggesting that, even if successful, the ousting of Rosen would have achieved little in practice.

    He commented that it was “hard to see what the strategy was” and “it would ultimately have been just another hour of shame for the justice department”.

        • Badger Robert says:

          She did not have much time to explain that comment. But I think that when Trump and the insiders realized that they weren’t succeeding in PA, NV, AZ and WI, they realized they needed one state to withdraw its results, and then they could produce delay.
          Invalidating Georgia alone would not produce the desired result.
          I am speculating. Maddow would be better able to explain her thesis.

      • SVFranklinS says:

        They wanted GA to be officially in question, delaying the certification, and forcing it back to the states to revisit the counts. As T tweeted, “send it back to the states, and WE WIN”.

        • bmaz says:

          Meh, at that point, I think it arguably may have been more about halting or invalidating the Georgia runoff elections.

          • Montana Voter says:

            Not a chance. Trump was focused solely on keeping himself in power. He was battling with the GOP and was actively working against a strong republican turnout, being true to his vindictive self.
            They clearly were following a plan to get their “loyalist” in place to find the needed votes to stop certification and then go back to the other states to try and do the same. My estimation of the DOJ folks has gone up considerably in light of their decision to stand up to the replacement of the US Attorney with a new puppet. They just didn’t have to run through all the AG’s to get to a Bork like No on did.

          • Njrun says:

            the runoffs were for Mitch McConnell, Trump doesn’t care about anything but Trump. I don’t know what the strategy was, but Trump’s sole concern was staying in power to avoid being prosecuted, IMO.

            • Valley girl says:

              I dunno about the runoffs being for McConnell (agnostic), but I agree with the rest. Trump for Trump to stay in power to avoid prosecution. At the rally Trump gave in GA, eve of the Senate run-offs, he gave a brief shout-out to Purdue, trying to find him in the audience. He didn’t seem to know/ realize that Perdue was not there, but at home in quarantine b/c he’d been exposed to COVID. Loeffler was on stage with him maybe 5 mins. iirc, and the rest of the 1 hour/ 2 hours? was rambling Trump lies and bullshit.

  7. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Dr. EW, The inclusion and repetition of Jeffrey Clark’s middle name, Bossert, struck me in your post as having some significance. My first guess was a link to Tom Bossert, but a search looking for that went nowhere. Now I’m wondering if the middle name Bossert does signal a connection to other relevant figures, rather than just his parents’ aesthetic sensibilities.

    • Spencer Dawkins says:

      Me, too. A quick Google says they grew up in Quakertown (Bossert) and in Philadelphia (Clark), 45 minutes apart, so now I’m more curious, but I have no idea where to look for confirmation about family ties …

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Yes, Spencer, getting that far myself piqued my curiosity; my guess was that Clark’s middle name might be his mom’s maiden name and thus a connection to Tom. Sure, coincidences happen. But two White guys, linked by one uncommon name, growing up within close-family distance of each other and ending up in Trump’s inner circle? Given the emphasis placed by Dr EW, that doesn’t seem coincidental.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Follow-up: I’m now seeing credible reporting (can’t remember where, probably Times) that Mr. Clark himself has been insisting on the inclusion of his middle name, Bossert, in accounts. His reason? Still unclear to me. But doesn’t appear that it was Dr. Wheeler making the point.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, I’m sorry, you have experience in front of a GJ testifying on this point? I do. And the atty/client privilege was upheld. Maybe be more specific as to whether “executive privilege” will maintain.

  8. mospeck says:

    Surreal WH meeting, with trump trying to work out a clark for rosen swap in order to overturn the US election. Paraphrasing Kasparov, ‘you cannot imagine what they will try.’
    But (putting trump in the rearview) Sleepy Joe and the West have a real opportunity to get rid of a gigantic long-standing problem here.
    Like it or not, Alexei just lit the fuse. Navalny, striking while the iron is hot, just played Rxp check, then if the K takes back, it’s mate in 3.
    back in Boston (during the days before the anti-sweep) the jerk Yankees fans used to buy up blocks of bleacher seats in Fenway. They would chant “nineteen-eighteen” and boom-boom boomboomboom off the wooden slats 1-2- 345, over and over again. If you’d never seen it, it was something to see.
    Anyway, vlad is in a 1917 situation right now. Go ahead and play king takes rook.
    boom-boom boomboomboom

    • rip says:

      Thanks for the mention of Kasparov. If it’s at all possible I hope he is consulted by our new government on how to deal with the current USSR.

    • Rayne says:

      I think the piece missing in this assessment is Putin’s money. He can buy a lot of loyalty, a lot of armed thugs, with the billions he has ratholed away.

  9. Beth from Santa Monica says:

    The real mystery is how and why these DOJ types reached their limit and decided this far and no father. I‘m glad they reached their „bridge too far“ but cannot fathom why it took so long. I worry that it‘s going to turn out to be a calculus grounded in cynicism and power politics, which is just so so sad.

  10. The Old Redneck says:

    Note the not-even-artful nondenial by Clark:

    In a statement that seemed to draw on language in the New York Times account, Clark said, “I categorically deny that I ‘devised a plan . . . to oust’ Jeff Rosen. . . .

    It wasn’t a “plan to oust” because he offered Rosen a demotion instead. And he didn’t “devise a plan” because he may have just been delivering someone else’s message.

    That’s why he disappeared behind the cloak of executive privilege rather than get into specifics.

  11. J R in WV says:

    Every time I begin to relax, to feel like the Trump-Era is over and done with so that we can focus upon the SARS2-Coronavirus-19 plague, and after winning that battle, proceed with a normal life, with friends and hugs, travel and new experiences, etc…. then something interrupts that relaxing process.

    At first, It was a simple thing: Trump lost his bid for re-election. Hurray, relax now, Uncle Joe was going to take care of business and we citizens could close our eyes and sleep all night. But Trump obviously was desperate and going to use the big lie and all his remaining Presidential power to twist the vote counters until they squealed and gave him the electoral votes he needed to steal an election.

    Then, after the Georgia Senatorial run-off elections were done, and both Democratic Senatorial candidates appeared to have won by a large enough margin to avoid any BS about the winners, I started to relax inside. My chest expanded, I smiled and toasted that win with Wife and our second bottle of celebratory champagne! We all know what happened the next day in Washington DC!!

    President Trump had what thankfully turned out to be his last rally, where he created an actual real insurrection, an attempted coup d’état, leading to a somewhat demolished Capitol building, several deaths, injuries, and finally, Senators and Members of Congress trampling on their oaths to support and defend the Constitution in public~!!~

    Followed by the beginning of the investigation into the attempted coup d’état, arrests of the violent insurrectionists, hopefully we will see the foresworn Senators and Members of Congress arrested for their support of the insurrection soon. Before the Senate trial if possible, they can’t vote for Trump from a jail cell.

    I still hope to relax, travel, hug friends, someday soon. Soon, please!

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