Emails show Trump administration, allies pressured DOJ to challenge election results

Jun 15, 2021
In The News

Former President Donald Trump, White House officials and other Trump allies repeatedly pressured former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to challenge the outcome of last year’s presidential election, emails released Tuesday by the House Oversight Committee show.

The emails show the pressure campaign had already started less than an hour before Trump announced in December that Attorney General William Barr would leave his post and be replaced by Rosen, who had been the deputy attorney general. 

On Dec. 14, the same day delegates cast their Electoral College votes in each state, Trump’s White House assistant sent an email to Rosen with the subject line “From POTUS” about alleged voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan. The email included “talking points” asserting there had been a cover-up involving voting machines in Michigan and that the state “cannot certify for (Joe) Biden.”

Approximately 40 minutes later, Trump announced the leadership change at the DOJ.

The emails also reveal the White House, on Dec. 29, submitted a draft legal brief to the Justice Department calling for the Supreme Court to declare that the Electoral College votes cast in six states that Trump lost “cannot be counted” and requesting that the court order a special election in those states.

A private attorney, Kurt Olsen, contacted multiple senior DOJ officials on Trump’s behalf urging them to file the brief, according to the emails. Olsen also emailed Rosen’s chief of staff saying Trump had seen the complaint and directed Olsen to meet in person with Rosen about bringing action.  

The emails are the latest potential evidence of the Trump administration’s disregard for the Justice Department’s independence and comes amid a separate scandal in which the DOJ reportedly sought phone records and other information from at least two Democratic members of Congress and their families over a leak investigation

“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,” House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a press release. 

The committee is holding its second hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot Tuesday, and the newly revealed emails to the DOJ are expected to come up.

“Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the Committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy,” Maloney said. “My Committee is committed to ensuring that the events leading to the violent January 6 insurrection are fully investigated.”

Trump’s office has not returned an email from Spectrum News seeking comment.

The emails released Tuesday also appear to show that the White House enlisted the help of Jeffrey Clark, then the DOJ’s acting head of the civil division. On Jan. 1, for example, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows directed Rosen to have Clark look into “signature match anomalies” in Fulton County, Georgia. 

The emails also show that Trump met with Rosen, Clark and other Justice Department officials on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3. 

In January, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced that his office had launched an investigation into whether any current or former department officials improperly tried to overturn the outcome of November’s presidential election. While the announcement did not mention Clark by name, it followed reports that Clark devised a plan with Trump to remove Rosen so that Clark could replace him and then use the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the traditionally red state.

Meadows, meanwhile, pressured the Justice Department at least five times to investigate conspiracy theories about election fraud or demand other officials pursue the claims, the emails show. Among the claims were that senior CIA officials may have been involved in a plot to change electoral data from facilities in Italy. 

Rosen’s responses to the requests appear to have grown increasingly more defiant over the weeks. For instance, after he was told about the alleged fraud in Michigan just before his promotion was announced Dec. 14, the information had been passed along to the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan. 

However, after receiving the email from Meadows on Jan. 1 requesting that Clark look into signatures in Georgia, Rosen forwarded the email to acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue with the comment: “Can you believe this?  I am not going to respond to the message below.”

About an hour earlier, Rosen told Donoghue in a separate email that he was asked to arrange a meeting between the FBI and Brad Johnson, a former CIA employee who was pushing the Italy conspiracy theory. Rosen wrote that he learned Johnson was working Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and refused the request.

Biden defeated Trump 306-232 in the Electoral College.

Some 60 lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and its allies challenging the election results were rejected by the courts. The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Association of State Election Directors described the election as "the most secure in American history.” And before resigning, Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election.