Then-President Donald Trump pressured top U.S. Justice Department officials in December to overturn his election defeat, threatening to oust them if they did not comply with his demands, documents released by congressional investigators show.
The handwritten notes, taken by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and released by the chair of the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee on Friday, paint a damning picture of Trump as he desperately sought to get the Department to take the unprecedented step of intervening in the 2020 presidential election.
The fact that the Justice Department allowed the handwritten notes to be turned over the congressional investigators marks a dramatic shift from the Trump administration, which repeatedly invoked executive privilege to skirt congressional scrutiny.
The newly released notes detail a Dec. 27 phone call in which Jeffrey Rosen, who was appointed as acting attorney general a few days later, is quoted as telling Trump: “Understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election.”
“Don’t expect you to do that,” Trump replied. “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” in a reference to Republicans.
The Justice Department’s shift will make it easier for the House Oversight Committee to interview key witnesses and collect evidence against Trump as part of its ongoing investigation.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department decided that due to “compelling legislative interests,” it was authorizing six former Trump administration officials to sit for interviews including Rosen and Donoghue, as well as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who resigned amid pressure from Trump, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian and former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark.
“The committee has begun scheduling interviews with key witnesses to investigate the full extent of the former President’s corruption, and I will exercise every tool at my disposal to ensure all witness testimony is secured without delay,” Maloney said in a statement.
Clark is currently at the heart of an ongoing inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general after news came to light he had plotted with Trump in a failed bid to oust Rosen so he could launch an investigation into alleged voter fraud in Georgia.
In the Dec. 27 call with Rosen, Trump threatened to put Clark in charge, according to the hand-written notes, telling Rosen: “People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership.”
Throughout the call, Trump repeatedly pushed false claims that the election had been stolen. “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” Trump said.
Rosen and Donoghue tried to tell Trump his information was incorrect multiple times.
“We are doing our job,” the notes say. “Much of the info you’re getting is false.”
A little more than a week later, based on Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen, thousands of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.