- A new Senate Judiciary Committee report details Trump’s ‘relentless’ against the Justice Department.
- A contentious Jan. 3 meeting in the Oval Office warned of a mass resignation of DOJ officials.
- It describes efforts to pursue unfounded voter fraud claims as a ‘murder-suicide pact.’
On the very day that Attorney General William Barr left office in late December, then-President Donald Trump and top White House aides began a “relentless” pressure campaign aimed at interim Justice Department leaders, including acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a new Senate committee report.
The effort included “near-daily outreach” to the department, such as nine calls and meetings with Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation found. The White House push continued right up to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters sought to block Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s election.
According to the committee, then-acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark repeatedly sought to “induce Rosen into helping Trump’s election subversion scheme” by telling Rosen that he would decline Trump’s offer that he take Rosen’s place if Rosen agreed to join.
The report said Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, pressured Rosen on “multiple occasions” to launch election fraud investigations, “violating longstanding restrictions on White House intervention in DOJ law enforcement matters.”
According to the report, Meadows attempted to push Rosen to meet with Trump’s outside lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was waging a parallel legal campaign in the courts, where he pressed debunked allegations of voter fraud in multiple states.
DOJ, White House officials threatened to resign
The report recounts a contentious Oval Office meeting Jan. 3, when Donoghue warned that a mass resignation of Justice Department officials and federal prosecutors would follow if Trump moved to replace Rosen with Clark to aid the president’s election subversion scheme.
According to testimony by Donoghue and Rosen, the resignations would not be confined to the Justice Department. During the three-hour meeting, the officials said, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy counsel Patrick Philbin threatened to tender their own resignations, reportedly calling Clark’s efforts to pursue unfounded voter fraud allegations as “murder-suicide pact.”
After the meeting, Rosen and Donoghue learned that they had prevailed in an email from another Justice Department official: “I only have limited visibility into this, but it sounds like Rosen and the cause of justice won,” the email stated. “We will convene a call when Jeff (Rosen) is back in the building (hopefully shortly). Thanks.”
“Today’s report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. “Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort. Donald Trump would have shredded the Constitution to stay in power.”
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the panel’s ranking Republican, issued a dissenting version of the testimony provided by Rosen, Donoghue and other officials: “The transcripts of this investigation speak for themselves, and they paint a very different picture from the left’s claims that the former president weaponized the Justice Department to alter the election results.”
“The available evidence shows that President Trump did what we’d expect a president to do on an issue of this importance: he listened to his senior advisors and followed their advice and recommendations,” Grassley said.
The Republican minority report characterized Trump’s contacts as an expression of “concern with ensuring that DOJ was doing its job of fully investigating allegations of election fraud so that the American people would have confidence in the results of the 2020 election and with particular concern about the people’s faith in the Georgia special election.”
“It is well-known that President Trump did not trust some elements at the DOJ and FBI, which evidently contributed to his concerns that DOJ was not doing enough to investigate allegations of election fraud,” the minority report concluded.
The Senate report builds on findings by a House committee, which disclosed emails and other communications in July detailing similar efforts by Trump. According to Donoghue’s notes of a telephone call with Rosen on Dec. 27, Trump urged the acting attorney general to make a public statement that “the election was corrupt.”
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said during the phone call, according to the handwritten notes.
Trump persisted, even though Barr had publicly said before his departure Dec. 23 that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would’ve changed the results.
Report calls out William Barr for directing investigations into election
The Senate report took Barr to task for allegedly directing officials to “aggressively” pursue claims of election fraud deviating from “decades-long practice” in which the department avoided any appearance of election interference.
Citing a Nov. 9 memorandum, the report concluded that Barr “directly contradicted DOJ’s longstanding policy against overtly investigating election fraud allegations before the election results are certified.”
“Accordingly, Barr authorized pre-certification investigations ‘if there are clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State’ – and called on prosecutors to ‘timely and appropriately address allegations of voting irregularities so that all of the American people … can have full confidence in the results of our elections.’”
Barr’s memo roiled an already unsteady department, prompting the resignation of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch chief.
According to the report, Barr directed the FBI to interview witnesses “concerning allegations that election workers at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena secretly tabulated suitcases full of illegal ballots.”
“These claims were pushed by Giuliani at a Georgia Senate hearing and had already been debunked by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office by the time Barr’s requested interviews took place,” the report stated.