The announcement from the inspector general, career official Michael Horowitz, appears to shield anyone outside the department, including former President Trump, from its investigation.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the start of an investigation Monday into whether any members of the department tried to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election.
The investigation follows reporting over the weekend that the outgoing President Donald Trump had, before his term ended Wednesday, sought to implant a loyalist in office at the Justice Department to prop up his false narrative about the fair and free November election.
Trump had reportedly sought to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with someone willing to use the agency’s power to overturn Georgia’s election results. Several unnamed administration officials told The New York Times that Trump was forced to dial back the idea when career members of the Justice Department promised to resign en masse if the plan was enacted.
The Washington Post reported last week that the inspector general is also looking into the abrupt resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung Pak for the Northern District of Georgia.
A day before Pak’s ouster, a recording was released of a phone call between Trump and Georgia secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president appears to pressure the state official to change the outcome of the race.
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said.
“We won the state,” Trump claimed, a statement at odds with vote totals from Raffensperger’s office showing that a majority of Georgia voters had cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden.
Horowitz has been in the watchdog role at the Justice Department since he was confirmed by the Senate in 2012. The agency is responsible for oversight of “waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct in DOJ programs and personnel.”
Other notable investigations from the Inspector General’s office under Horowitz’s watch include a 2019 report that found a flaw, but nothing illegal, in the FBI’s use of a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aid Carter Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While the warrant applications were found to have “significant inaccuracies and omissions,” they did not show signs of bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to launch an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
The investigation Horowitz announced Monday will include all current and former Justice Department employees, and is open to “all relevant allegations” that could arise out of the inspector’s jurisdiction, which includes conduct of former and current employees.
Horowitz noted that such jurisdiction does not include other government officials, a possible nod to Trump.