Trump Pressured DOJ to Declare Election Corrupt and 'Leave the Rest to Me'
President Trump tried to pressure the Justice Department to declare the election “corrupt,” telling the agency to “leave the rest to me,” according to handwritten notes taken by then-deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue during a phone call with the president. The notes were made public by the House Oversight Committee on Friday.
In a conversation with the president on December 27th, then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue—two of the department’s most senior officials—told the president that the DOJ “can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.”
But the president pushed back, telling them, “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”
Despite the call taking place weeks after Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, announced that the department had found no evidence that widespread election fraud took place, the president insisted he knew that enough fraud occurred to potentially overturn the election.
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“You guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” Trump told the officials, according to the notes.
The president also threatened to replace officials who may not go along with his claims of fraud. “People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in,” Trump said, speaking about the acting chief of the Justice Department’s civil division, who pushed the same electoral conspiracy theories as the president. Trump added, “People want me to replace D.O.J. leadership.”
This prompted Donoghue to respond, “You should have the leadership you want, [but it] won’t change the dept’s position,” according to the notes.
In addition to pushing election lies, Trump also wanted the DOJ to “figure out what to do” about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who held a position on a Ukrainian natural gas company. Trump was convinced, without evidence, that some kind of foul play took place. “People will criticize the D.O.J. if he’s not investigated for real,” the president said, according to the New York Times.
By pushing the department to investigate Biden, the president violated department guidelines forbidding the president from interfering with criminal investigations or law enforcement actions. The House Oversight Committee is investigating the matter and has started scheduling “interviews with key witnesses to investigate the full extent of the former president’s corruption,” committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement accompanying the notes’ release.
“These handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation’s top law enforcement agency to take steps to overturn a free and fair election in the final days of his presidency,” Maloney said. “I will exercise every tool at my disposal to ensure all witness testimony is secured without delay.”
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