UPDATE, AUG 9:
Jeffrey Rosen, Acting Attorney General at the end of the Trump Administration, has told Justice Department and Congressional investigators that senior Department official Jeffrey Clark sought to help Trump overturn the 2020 election.
Rosen spoke for two hours on Friday with the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. He gave closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday.
Rosen’s account bolsters the evidence of Trump’s plot through Clark, the head of the Justice Department’s civil division.
The Acting Attorney General and his deputy Richard Donoghue held out against Trump’s pressure. Trump’s response, to replace Rosen with Clark, was foiled by the mass resignation threat of Justice Department officials.
“A person familiar with the interview” said Rosen told the Justice Department investigators of five encounters with Clark. They including a meeting in late December in which admitted to meeting with Trump and pledged that he would not do so again.
But Clark continued to press the Trump falsehoods in further exchanges with Rosen. The Acting Attorney General discovered further unauthorized conversations between Clark and Trump.
UPDATE, AUG 5:
Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist at the Justice Department, sought the Department’s intervention to overturn the November election by promoting Donald Trump’s false claims about the vote.
On December 28, Clark circulated a draft letter urging Georgia’s top officials to convene the state legislature in a special session over supposed “irregularities”. Clark lied that the Justice Department had identified “significant concerns that may have impacted of the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia”.
Clark, who was head of the Department’s Civil Division, e-mailed the draft to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. He indicated that he wanted similar letters for “each relevant state”.
Clark wrote Rosen and Donoghue, “I set it up for signature by the three of us. I think we should get it out as soon as possible.”
The draft letter was circulated a day after Trump demanded that Rosen and Donoghue declare the November election “corrupt”. On December 30, two days after Clark’s intervention, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressed the Acting Attorney General and his deputy over Georgia, “Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing?”
Donoghue responded to Clark that former Attorney General William Barr, who left earlier in December amid Trump’s pressure, had publicly announced that the Department found no evidence of mass voter fraud. He said there was “no chance” he would sign the draft letter “or anything remotely like this”: “This is not even in the realm of possibility.”
Rosen followed up on January 2 with an e-mail that he was “not prepared to sign such a letter”.
Trump then tried to replace Rosen with Clark in a meeting on January 3. The move was foiled when senior Justice Department officials threatened a mass resignation.
House Oversight Committee investigators have interviewed Rosen’s chief of staff Patrick Hovakimian, who drafted a resignation letter on January 3, anticipating the dismissal of Rosen.
Hovakimian cited Trump’s “direct instructions” to the Department. The draft stated:
This evening, after Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the President’s direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice’s law enforcement powers for improper ends, the President removed Jeff from the Department.
The House committee is investigating the events leading up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters. Rosen and Donoghue are also expected to be interviewed.
UPDATE, AUG 1:
Donald Trump has defended his demand that the Justice Department declare November’s election and the victory of Joe Biden “corrupt”, so he could stay in the White House.
Trump told Fox TV on Saturday that his pressure on the Department’s senior officials was “meant to uphold the integrity and honesty of elections and the sanctity of our vote”.
He continued his disinformation, which culminated in his supporters attacking the US Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to prevent Congressional certification of President-elect Biden: “It is time for Congress and others to investigate how such corruption was allowed to take place rather than investigating those that are exposing this massive fraud on the American people.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JULY 31: Donald Trump commanded the leaders of the Justice Department to declare the November 2020 Presidential election “corrupt”, keeping him in the White House.
Trump said he and his allies in Congress would use the declaration to overturn the victory of Joe Biden: “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. [Republican] Congressmen.”
In a December 27 phone call, Trump pushed his unsupported claims of voter fraud on Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue.
When Donoghue said the Department had no power to change the election’s outcome, Trump said he did not expect that response.
Captured in notes taken by Donoghue, the exchange is among documents given to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. They add detail to Trump’s plot to hold power after the November 3 vote and before the Congressional confirmation of President-elect Biden on January 6, when the Capitol building was invaded by Trump supporters.
In early December, Attorney General William Barr — having protected Trump since January 2019 by burying the Mueller Report on Trump-Russia links — announced his resignation. He said Trump’s claims of voter fraud were “bullshit” and chided the effort by Trump’s lawyers to throw out the result.
Trump named Rosen as the Acting Attorney General on December 14. A day later, he summoned the official to the White House and demanded support of his attorneys’ lawsuits, and pressed for a Special Counsel to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, accused by Trump’s lawyers and conspiracy theorists of fraud in decisive states.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Rosen to pursue “fraud”. The Chief of Staff pushed disinformation such as voting machines switching votes from Trump to Biden, include via a virtual operation run from Italy.
On December 30, three days after Trump’s meeting with Rosen and Donoghue, Meadows called on Rosen to pursue an investigation in Georgia, narrowly won by Biden. “Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing? Only the alleged fraudulent activity.”
After Rosen rebuffed Meadows, Trump plotted to fire him and install a replacement, Jeffrey Clark, who would declare electoral fraud. The scheme was blocked when the Justice Department’s top officials threatened to resign en masse.
Trump’s Congressional Allies
In the December 27 meeting, Trump did not name the Congressional aides involved in his scheme. However, at points in the call, he mentioned Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
The office of Jordan, whom Trump described as a “fighter”, denied any involvement.
“Congressman Jordan did not, has not, and would not pressure anyone at the Justice Department about the 2020 election,” said Jordan spokesman Russell Dye. “He continues to agree with President Trump that it is perfectly appropriate to raise concerns about election integrity.”
Jordan has evaded questions about whether he was in contact with Trump before, during, or after the Capitol attack. Despite the possible connection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy named the Ohio legislator to the House special committee investigating the events. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked the appointment, McCarthy ordered all Republicans not to cooperate with the inquiry.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Johnson, who has promoted Trump’s unfounded claims about fraud, said the senator had “no conversations with President Trump about the DOJ questioning the election results”.
Justice Department to Trump: “Info You’re Getting is False”
Trump hoped that courts would throw out electoral results in key states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin. However, attorneys for Trump and his allies lost more than 60 cases, with their only victory affecting just a few thousand ballots in Pennsylvania.
So Trump tried to strong-arm federal, state, and local officials to block the transition of power. He repeatedly called Republican officials in Georgia, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding that they “find the votes” to award him victory.
Donoghue rejected Trump’s claims of the “corrupted elections”, saying, “Much of the info you’re getting is false”.
The Acting Attorney General cited “dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews” which found no evidence upholding Trump’s assertions.
He explained that the error rate of ballot counting in Michigan was 0.0063%, rather than the 68% claimed by Trump. The Justice Department found no evidence of an employee in Pennsylvania tampering with ballots, or of ballot fraud in Fulton County, Georgia.
Trump pushed on: “OK, fine — but what about the others?” He insisted, “[Those] saying that the election isn’t corrupt are corrupt,” and declared that there was “not much time left” to act.
Rosen and Donoghue tried to close the conversation: “We are not in a position based on the evidence. We can only act on the actual evidence developed.”
That infuriated Trump, who snapped that “thousands of people called” the office of local US attorneys to complain about the election:
Nobody trusts the FBI….People are angry — blaming DOJ for inaction….You guys may not be following the internet the way I do.
He then tipped off his plan to replace Rosen if the election was not declared fraudulent: “People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in.”
Donoghue replied that Trump “should have the leadership you want”, but it would not change the Justice Department’s position over the unsupported allegations.