Documents obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showcase how former President Donald Trump and his allies in the White House sought to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to join in its legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race, which Trump lost to Joe Biden.
The push to coerce the DOJ to help overturn the outcome of the race are highlighted in a number of emails sent from the White House around the same time that former Attorney General William Barr abruptly resigned from his post in December. The White House messaged Jeffrey Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, as well as Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, requesting their help on several fronts.
The House Oversight Committee received the documents as part of its inquiry into the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 of this year.
On December 14, around 40 minutes before Trump announced Barr’s resignation on Twitter, the White House sent Rosen an email with a subject line that read “FROM POTUS” (President of the United States). That email included “talking points” that suggested a cover-up was happening, specifically mentioning a conspiracy theory involving Michigan voting machines — an election fraud claim that had already been debunked at the time the email was sent.
“Michigan cannot certify for Biden,” the email from the White House insisted.
On December 29, the White House also sent Rosen and Donoghue a request to review a draft legal brief the president’s lawyers were preparing to send to the United States Supreme Court. That brief would have demanded that the Court “declare that the Electoral College votes cast” in six states Trump and his allies were contending “cannot be counted.” It also demanded a new, “special election” for president to be held in those states.
Days later, on January 1 — just five days prior to the Electoral College certification that was set to take place in Congress — former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also pressured the DOJ to investigate an unfounded conspiracy theory that alleged facilities in Italy, using CIA military satellites, had changed the results of the 2020 presidential race. There was no evidence to suggest that such a thing had actually occurred.
“These 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,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), chair of the House Oversight Committee, in a statement. “Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the Committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy.”
In at least one instance, the DOJ did forward the complaints to U.S. attorneys to consider. But both Rosen and Donoghue appeared dismissive of the claims that were being made by Trump officials and their efforts to enlist the Justice Department to join in contesting the election. An email from Donoghue to Rosen, regarding the Italy/CIA conspiracy theory, described it as “pure insanity.”
Rosen is reportedly in the process of negotiating a time and manner in which he can provide testimony to the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, regarding the final days of the Trump administration, as part of those committees’ inquiries into the events of January 6. Rosen has also requested that the DOJ provide him guidance on what he can or cannot say in those testimonies, as it pertains to privileged communications he had with Trump and others in the previous administration.