Well it’s 2021 and everything is still on fire. But while we all wait to see if Mike Pence burns down the electoral college before the Proud Boys burn down DC, let’s take a moment to visit the Northern District of Georgia, where the president has just fired US attorney Byung J. “BJay” . Pak.
As TPM first reported, Pak had planned to leave his post on January 20, when Biden is inaugurated. Instead, he abruptly announced his resignation on Monday due to “unforeseen circumstances”. It did so just a day after the infamous phone call that Trump pressured Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger to find “11,780 votes, one more than us” was published.
The timing could be accidental, although Trump referred to Pak as “your never-trumper US attorney there” on the call. Perhaps Trump just fired Pak, whom he nominated for the position in 2017, out of sheer vindictiveness.
But maybe there is still something going on here.
We’ve already seen the late Bill Barr attempt to massacre the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern borough of New York Saturday night by announcing that Geoffrey Berman has resigned and SEC chairman Jay Clayton will take over becomes. Berman hadn’t, and thanks to Barr’s antics, Clayton didn’t. An investigation is pending at that office involving Trump’s attorney / fixer / public spectacle Rudy Giuliani.
Similarly, DCUS attorney Jessie Liu was unceremoniously evicted and found her nomination for a position in the Treasury … which was then ripped off. In her absence, Barr installed his pal Timothy Shea, and Michael Flynn’s law enforcement mysteriously disappeared.
And in July, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Borough of New York, Richard Donoghue, was abruptly transferred to the Chief Justice where he was trading with a close ally, Assistant Attorney General Seth DuCharme. This office is investigating or investigating any irregularities in Trump’s inauguration.
There is clearly a precedent for the Trump administration to install pals in key Justice Department positions to cover the president’s great flank. And here, as TPM reporter Tierney Sneed first noted, Trump appears to have had a personal interest in running this particular US attorney’s office. Trump bypassed the career officer who would normally take the helm and personally appointed Bobby Christine, the acting U.S. attorney for the southern district of Georgia, to co-lead the northern district.
“On January 4, 2021, Bobby was named acting US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia on a written order from the President,” said Christine’s DOJ biography.
Which is not normal. Why is the president so concerned about appointing his husband just 15 days before he leaves office? The Right Echo Chamber believes Brad Raffensperger will be arrested for taping the phone call in which Trump was repeatedly upset about the persecution of a Georgia election worker who he believes triple counted the same batch of 18,000 ballot papers. At the same time, Trump was taped as he tried to force the state governor and state secretary to falsify the election results. All of this is an alarming background to the chief prosecutor’s sudden departure.
Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe it isn’t, so we’d better be careful.
EXCLUSIVE: Trump bypasses top prosecutor to name new incumbent US attorney in Atlanta [TPM]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore, where she writes on law and politics.