President Donald Trump urged senior Justice Department officials to declare the results of the 2020 election “corrupt” in a December phone call, according to handwritten notes from a participant in the conversation.
Trump at one point said to then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, according to notes written by Richard Donoghue, then Rosen’s deputy who was also on the call.
The notes in the December 27 call, released Friday by the House Oversight Committee, underscore how far Trump has gone in trying to nullify the election results and acquire the support of senior government officials in the effort.
Emails released final month show that Trump and his allies in the final weeks of his presidency pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated allegations of widespread election fraud, sending out conspiracy theories and even a draft legal memo they hoped to take to the Supreme Court.
The pressure was even more pronounced because just weeks ago, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, revealed that the Department of Justice had not found any evidence of widespread fraud that could have perturb the findings. Unsupported allegations of fraud have been repeatedly dismissed by judge following judge, including by Trump appointees and election officials across the country.
“These handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation’s highest law enforcement agency to take steps to nullify free and sincere elections in the final days of his presidency,” the committee chair said. Caroline Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement.
She said the commission had begun scheduling interviews with witnesses as part of its investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the findings. The Justice Department earlier this week allowed six witnesses, including Rosen and Donoghue, to appear prior the committee and provide “unrestricted testimony,” citing the public interest in the “extraordinary events” of those recent weeks.
The call took place on December 27 just days following Barr resigned, leaving Rosen in charge of the department during the final weeks of the administration that also included the January 6 riots at the US Capitol as Trump supporters stormed the building during a congressional meeting. Certification of election results.
During the call, according to the notes, Trump complained of people’s anger and blamed the Department of Justice for inaction and said, “We have an obligation to tell people that this is an illegal and corrupt election.” He alleged that the administration failed to respond to legitimate complaints and reports of election-related crimes.
Justice Department officials told Trump that the department was investigating, including through hundreds of interviews, but the allegations were not supported by evidence. They said a lot of the information the president got was incorrect, according to Donoghue’s notes.
The notes show that Rosen told Trump at one point in the conversation that the Department of Justice “cannot + won’t tap its fingers + change the outcome of an election, it doesn’t work that way.”
Trump responded by saying, “Don’t expect you to do that, just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the members of Congress,” according to the notes.
During the call, Trump spoke about replacing the Justice Department’s leadership with Jeffrey Clark, then the assistant attorney general for the Division of Environment and Natural Resources, who also served as the acting chief of the civilian division. Donoghue replied that such a move would not change the administration’s position.
After the New York Times reported that Trump was considering a plan to replace Rosen with Clark, the inspector general announced that he would investigate whether any previous or current department official “has been involved in an improper attempt” to invalidate the presidential election results.