The Department of Justice twice declined to investigate Donald Trump and his advisers for plotting a coup against the United States. It wasn’t until Rachel Maddow embarrassed them that DOJ leadership moved to investigate the fake elector plot.
DOJ Did Not Want To Investigate Trump For 1/6
The Department of Justice is notoriously risk-averse. The Justice Department has such a high conviction rate because they only bring the tightest of cases.
The DOJ had refused to investigate Trump and coup co-conspirators because they did not want to look political, and leadership didn’t think they had enough evidence. The National Archives wanted an investigation into the fake elector documents but were turned down.
Politico had reported that week that the House committee had demanded and received documents from several states about fake electors as well as other efforts Trump advisers had taken to pressure state officials ahead of Jan. 6. A wave of news reports and commentary followed, including by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who devoted several nights of her show to reporting on clues that suggested Trump allies ran a coordinated scheme to try to overturn the election.
In the last of those episodes, on Jan. 13, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) announced that she had referred the matter of fake electors to federal prosecutors — that day. She called the scheme “forgery of a public record” under Michigan law but said the Justice Department would be best suited to prosecute a multistate effort.
One person directly familiar with the department’s new interest in the case said it felt as though the department was reacting to the House committee’s work as well as heightened media coverage and commentary. “Only after they were embarrassed did they start looking,” the person said.
Rachel Maddow Put Together The Fake Elector Scheme Pieces
The 1/6 Committee was conducting its investigation but had not said anything publicly yet, so DOJ could have ignored the committee. What could not be ignored was the increasing media attention driven by Maddow’s nightly segments on the fake elector plot.
The slate of illegally submitted fake electors was central to Trump’s coup plot. Trump and his allies plotted to have Mike Pence block the certification of the election and then have the election sent back to the swing states with bogus claims of fraud, the state legislatures were supposed to declare Trump the winner, and slates of fake pro-Trump electors would replace the legitimate Biden electors and hand Trump a second term.
Rachel Maddow put together evidence, including the fact that the fake elector documents all came from the central source.
After a series of programs about the fake elector plot, Maddow interviewed Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who said, “We think this is a matter that is best investigated and potentially prosecuted by the feds and as such just today we referred this matter to the Western District, the U.S. Attorney’s office, for them to evaluate it and we hope that main Justice — the Department of Justice will become involved and use the information they already have to better understand exactly what happened that day so that federal charges can be evaluated.”
The DOJ Was Ready To Let Trump Walk On An Attempted Coup
If the 1/6 Committee was not investigating. If Rachel Maddow wasn’t putting pieces together. If state and local law enforcement officials were not calling out the fake elector plot, Trump might have gotten away with an attempted coup. Public pressure matters. Journalism matters, and having people at all levels of government who are willing to do the right thing matters.
Should Donald Trump be criminally charged for the fake elector plot, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow will be one of the reasons why.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association