The US’s Senate Judiciary Committee has just released (overnight Australian time) a report revealing the extent to which former president Donald Trump went in insisting the Department of Justice challenge the results of last year’s presidential election.
The 394-page report sheds more light on the extensive badgering from Trump and the dwindling number of loyalists around him trying to force the department to overturn election results based on baseless claims of fraud.
In addition to drawing on documents from Trump’s last weeks in office, the report is also based on interviews with three justice department officials who lived through the chaos.
In releasing the report, senate judiciary committee chair Dick Durbin (a Democrat) said it shows just how close the US came to a constitutional crisis.
“Donald Trump would have shredded the Constitution to stay in power. We must never allow this unprecedented abuse of power to happen again,” he said.
But Durbin also made particular note of the role top bureaucrats in the DoJ played in standing up to the bullying president.
Republicans on the committee predictably released their own minority report to downplay the findings and suggest there were no erratic attempts to bully department officials and weaponise the bureaucracy.
They say Trump simply: “Did what we’d expect a president to do on an issue of this importance.”
The actual report from the judiciary committee, however, is damning of the defeated president and not only paints a picture of a desperate egomaniac trying to cling onto power, but also gives a fine example of a public service resisting attempts to politicise.
The report details long meetings in the Oval Office with the officials, repeated phone calls, letters being drafted, and an endless string of communication all with the aim of getting the DoJ to intervene, particularly in the state of Georgia’s election results.
The officials pushed back, refused to do Trump’s bidding and specifically rejected orders to send a letter calling for the Georgia legislature to consider appointing a new panel of presidential electors.
Sackings were threatened and resignations were offered.
But whichever way you look at it, this sorry episode also reveals a public sector that works.
This was a win for the bureaucracy, and shows dedicated public service leaders taking their roles seriously by putting the nation’s interest before those of a tyrant bully in power.
There is perhaps no greater example of an attempt to politicise a public service. This report is well worth reading — it will be discussed in political and academic circles for generations to come.