Jun 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Emails reveal Trump pressured top DOJ officials to overturn election results

former President Trump
Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

Between December 2020 and early January, former President Trump and his allies repeatedly pressed senior Justice Department officials to investigate baseless conspiracy theories and challenge the results of the 2020 election, according to documents released by the House Oversight Committee.

Why it matters: The documents reveal new details about the extent to which Trump and his aides — including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — were willing to go to maintain power and advance the lie that the election was stolen.

Details: The documents show that on Dec. 14, the day that the Electoral College met to certify results in all 50 states, Trump's assistant sent then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen materials and "talking points" about debunked election fraud claims in Michigan.

  • 40 minutes after the email was sent, Trump announced that Attorney General Bill Barr — who disputed false election claims — would step down and be replaced by Rosen.
  • Richard Donoghue, then a senior DOJ official, sent the same documents to the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan. His promotion to Acting Deputy Attorney General was announced shortly thereafter.

On Dec. 29, Trump sent Rosen, Donoghue, and Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall a 54-page legal brief demanding that the Supreme Court “declare that the Electoral College votes cast” in six states Trump lost “cannot be counted,” and that a “special election” must be held in each one.

  • The president's private attorney Kurt Olsen then contacted senior DOJ officials on Trump's behalf, urging them to file a complaint.
  • Trump pressured Rosen and then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark to challenge election results during meetings on Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021, according to emails.
  • Byung Pak, then-U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, resigned on Jan. 3 following pressure from the administration, which was pushing videos alleging fraudulent votes in Fulton County.

On at least five occasions, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows directed DOJ officials to investigate baseless fraud claims, including a conspiracy alleging that electoral data was changed in Italian facilities with the knowledge of the CIA.

  • Rosen forwarded one of Meadows' emails linking to a YouTube video about the Italy conspiracy to Donoghue, who responded: "Pure insanity."
  • Rosen told Donoghue that he refused a request to have the FBI meet with a Rudy Giuliani associate who was promoting the conspiracy theory.
  • Later that day, Meadows sent another email to Rosen about alleged irregularities in Fulton County, Georgia. Rosen again forwarded the email to Donoghue and wrote: “Can you believe this?  I am not going to respond to the message below.” 

What to watch: The House Oversight Committee has requested that Meadows, Donoghue, Clark, Pak and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian appear for transcribed interviews. The committee previously requested Rosen's testimony on May 21.

What they're saying: “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 House Oversight Chair Maloney (D-N.Y.). 

  • “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.”
Go deeper