After President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, he was told repeatedly by top Justice Department officials that his claims of widespread voter fraud were unfounded — but he repeatedly ignored those facts and steadily ramped up a pressure campaign, arguing that the agency should “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
Trump pursued numerous avenues to cling to power, including asking numerous Justice Department officials to intervene and work to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. On Thursday, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and the weeks leading up to it showed instances of Trump urging DOJ leadership to publicly — and falsely — say there was election fraud, to file lawsuits toward that end and to appoint a special counsel focused on it.
When the officials — including Jeffrey Rosen, then the acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, then the acting deputy attorney general — refused to go along, Trump threatened to install a replacement for Rosen who would do his bidding.
On Dec. 27, 2020, Trump, according to Donoghue, became more adamant that the Justice Department needed to act on his election corruption allegations, which the DOJ official told Trump “had no merit.” Donoghue walked Trump through an allegation about fraud at State Farm Arena in Fulton County, Ga., and others, telling him explicitly that each one was “not true.”
Trump focused his attention on Jeffrey Clark, an assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, who was willing to produce evidence of widespread fraud that was quickly proven to not exist. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., brought Clark to the White House to meet with Trump on Dec. 22, 2020, a meeting that Rosen wasn’t aware of. Furthermore, Clark did not tell him until after the fact, which was “not appropriate,” Rosen said.