According to materials obtained by members of the House Oversight Committee, then-President Trump at one point late last year told top officials at the Justice Department to “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me.” This recounting of Trump’s remarks comes from notes made by Richard Donoghue, who was serving at the time of the comments as acting deputy attorney general. During the original conversation, which also involved then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Trump also indicated that he was at least of the belief that allies of his in Congress would help with overturning the election results after getting the declaration of election fraud that he wanted from the Justice Department.
No one at the Justice Department or anywhere else in government has ever uncovered meaningful evidence that last year’s presidential election was somehow affected by systematic fraud. There’s a vast difference between the individual, isolated cases of election fraud that have emerged in connection to last year’s election and the sweeping fraud scheme that Trump and his allies have alleged was present. Trump’s effort as president to nevertheless pressure the Justice Department into making a false declaration that systematic election fraud was present constitutes an appalling abuse of power.
Although the Justice Department might ordinarily keep notes like Donoghue’s private from members of Congress — after all, the materials cover a conversation between a president and Cabinet member — The New York Times explains that the department “reasoned that congressional investigators were examining potential wrongdoing by a sitting president, an extraordinary circumstance.” Thus, Justice Department officials handed over the notes, and current officials have also indicated to Rosen, Donoghue, and others that they are free to provide what the Times calls “unrestricted” testimony regarding these matters to the House Oversight Committee.
The concept known as executive privilege might, in other circumstances, be utilized to restrict testimony to Congress, but Justice Department officials concluded that since “executive privilege is meant to benefit the country, rather than the president as an individual, invoking it over Mr. Trump’s efforts to push his personal agenda would be inappropriate,” according to the new Times report.
According to Donoghue’s notes, Trump also insisted that the individuals “saying that the election isn’t corrupt are corrupt,” while at another point, the then-president claimed that “thousands of people called” the offices of their local U.S. Attorneys to raise concerns about supposed election fraud. Trump also ranted that “nobody trusts the FBI” and that “people are angry — blaming DOJ for inaction,” according to the notes. What Trump wanted Donoghue, Rosen, and other officials to do amounted to an attack against the democratic process as it stands in the United States.