Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show
Newly revealed documents obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee reveal that former President Trump and his allies pressured the Department of Justice (DOJ) to back his unproven claims of election fraud in the days and weeks before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The documents, released publicly on Tuesday, show Trump, his then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and outside allies putting pressure on senior DOJ officials to probe claims of voter fraud in December and early January.
Emails provided to the committee by the Justice Department revealed that Trump sent allegations of election fraud to top DOJ officials minutes before he announced their promotions, which were sparked by the resignation of then-Attorney General William Barr.
Approximately 40 minutes before Trump tweeted that Barr would be stepping down and that then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and then-Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue would be promoted, his White House assistant sent Rosen an email with the subject “From POTUS,” which contained materials alleging voter fraud in Antrim County, Mich. The email also included “talking points” that claimed “a Cover-up is Happening regarding the voting machines in Michigan” and “Michigan cannot certify for Biden.”
Trump then sent the same documents to Donoghue, according to the committee.
The documents also revealed that Trump used official White House channels and a private attorney to urge the DOJ to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court that asked the court to declare that the Electoral College vote in six states Trump lost cannot be counted and request a special election to vote for president.
Additionally, the documents illustrated attempts by Meadows, who was then the White House chief of staff, to ask DOJ officials on at least five occasions to pursue claims of election fraud.
“Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing. Only the alleged fraudulent activity,” Meadows wrote to Rosen on Dec. 30 referencing alleged voting issues in Georgia.
He again made a similar request on Jan. 1 referencing “signature match anomalies” in the state and again asking DOJ “to determine if there is any truth to this allegation.”
Rosen’s responses show he was uncomfortable with the request, forwarding Meadow’s message to another colleague and writing “Can you believe this? I am not going to respond to the message below.”
The next day, Trump would spend an hour on the phone with Georgia elections officials where he asked them to “find” him votes.
Meadows also forwarded a document breaking down an Italian-based conspiracy theory alleging use of satellites to interfere with electoral data.
In an email Donoghue called it “pure insanity” while Rosen said he declined to meet with an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani pushing the matter.
“I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ and reaffirmed yet again that I will not be talking to Giuliani about any of this,” Rosen said in response.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the documents “show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost.”
“Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the Committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy. My Committee is committed to ensuring that the events leading to the violent January 6 insurrection are fully investigated,” she added.
The document dump, first reported by The New York Times, was provided to the committee in response to a letter sent to the DOJ requesting records related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election prior to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to the committee.
The Hill has requested comment on the released documents from Trump’s office.
In a House Oversight hearing later Tuesday, Maloney said the committee has already requested interviews with a number of Trump-era officials involved in the emails.
“As the next step in our investigation, the committee has requested transcribed interviews with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who directly pressured DOJ officials at least five times to investigate fake claims of election fraud. We also plan to interview former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and other senior officials with first-hand knowledge of President Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election,” she said.
During the same hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a vocal Trump defender, sought to downplay the email exchanges. He argued that asking Rosen to “look into” allegations of election fraud shouldn’t constitute pressure.
“[Meadows] sent an email to Mr. Rosen, the acting Attorney General, ‘Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing.’ Wow, a lot of pressure there,” Jordan said sarcastically. “Every chief of staff I bet for every single one of us sends the same kind of emails and letters every day. You get constituents, if people call you [with concerns], you send it to the agency: ‘Can you look into this?’”
He said Rosen and DOJ deserve more scrutiny for not jumping on the request.
“When the chief of staff to the president of the United States asks someone in the executive branch to do something, and they basically give it a finger, I think that’s the problem we should be looking into.”
—Updated at 5:41 p.m.