The Justice Department inspector general is investigating the sudden departure of former Atlanta US Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak, who then-President Donald Trump replaced at the same time that Pak and the state of Georgia had become a focus for Trump in his attempt to overturn the state’s certified presidential election results, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The paper, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the probe by Inspector General Michael Horowitz appears nascent, noting that investigators had not spoken to Pak and the bounds of the investigation remain unclear.
A spokesperson for the inspector general’s office declined to comment when reached by CNN. Pak declined to comment to the Post.
Pak, a Trump appointee who had served in the office since 2017, left his job abruptly on January 4 as the US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta and Fulton County, citing “unforeseen circumstances” in a memo to staff. Pak’s departure followed fallout over a phone call the previous weekend in which Trump had pressured Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the election in the state, which he lost to President Joe Biden.
In audio of the phone call obtained by CNN and first reported by the Post, Trump is also heard making baseless claims about the state’s election and at one point, when questioning the audit of ballots, he tells Raffensperger, “You have your never-Trumper US attorney there,” without mentioning a name. The comment appears to reference Pak.
Trump, in turn, ordered a US attorney from southern Georgia to take over the Atlanta office, in an unusual move. The Justice Department said the Southern District of Georgia’s US attorney, Bobby Christine, who is also a Trump appointee and has been in the job since 2017, would take over as acting head in Atlanta, handling both roles. The Atlanta office’s top assistant US attorney, Kurt Erskine, normally would have taken on the acting US attorney role but was passed over.
Two people familiar with the matter told the Post in Thursday’s story that a call from a senior Justice Department official in Washington had indicated to Pak that he should resign. Trump was angry at what he viewed as the department’s insufficient pursuit of his baseless allegations about Georgia’s election and the nation overall, people familiar with the matter told the paper at the time.
As CNN has previously reported, there have been no credible allegations of any issues with voting that would have impacted the election, as affirmed by dozens of judges, governors, election officials, the Electoral College, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the US Supreme Court.
The law firm Alston & Bird announced Thursday that Pak was returning to the firm in February as a partner in its Litigation & Trial Practice Group in Atlanta. Pak was formerly a litigation associate at Alston & Bird and began his private practice career there in 2000, according to a news release from the firm.
In the statement from the Justice Department announcing his resignation early this month, Pak said he was grateful to Trump for the opportunity to serve and thanked former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions.
“It has been the greatest honor of my professional career to have been able to serve my fellow citizens as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia,” he said. “I have done my best to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner.”
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez, Chandelis Duster and Kelly Mena contributed to this report.