Jun 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Former Justice officials: Trump asked DOJ to seize voting machines

Photo of a video screen showing a picture of Donald Trump and senior DOJ officials with the text "Why don't you guys seize machines?"

Former President Trump asked the Justice Department to seize voting machines from state governments as part of his campaign to overturn the 2020 election, former senior DOJ officials testified at the Jan. 6 select committee's fifth hearing on Thursday.

Why it matters: Trump had repeatedly asked the DOJ to investigate election conspiracy theories, using various avenues to pressure them into doing his bidding. After senior officials refused to budge, he threatened to remove them from their positions.

What they're saying: "We had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines, and I told him that the real experts [at the Department of Homeland Security] had briefed us, that they had looked at it and that there was nothing wrong with the voting machines," former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen told the panel.

  • There was no factual basis or legal authority to seize machines, he noted.
  • "The president was very agitated by the acting attorney general's response," former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue said.
  • "He said, 'People tell me I should just get rid of both of you. I should just remove you and put Jeff Clark in — maybe something will get done." Jeffrey Clark was an assistant attorney general who supported Trump's election fraud claims.
  • "President Trump is talking about seizing voting machines ... Claim after claim knocked down. But the president didn't care," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said. 
  • The next day, chief of staff Mark Meadows sent multiple emails to Rosen asking the DOJ to send Clark to Fulton County, Georgia to investigate fraud claims.

Worth noting: DOJ officials testified Thursday that Clark wanted former President Trump to install him as attorney general with a plan they called "nuts" and a "murder-suicide pact."

More from Axios:

Go deeper