Washington — New documents released Tuesday by Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee demonstrate the extent of efforts by former President Donald Trump to push the Justice Department to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, the committee's chair, announced the release of documents ahead of a hearing on the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by a violent mob of Trump supporters seeking to overturn the presidential election. The rioters overran the Capitol as lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence met to finalize the Electoral College results.
"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," Maloney said in a statement. "Those who aided or witnessed President Trump's unlawful actions must answer the committee's questions about this attempted subversion of democracy. My committee is committed to ensuring that the events leading to the violent January 6 insurrection are fully investigated."
Ahead of the attack on January 6, Mr. Trump repeatedly refused to concede the election and falsely claimed that the election was stolen, even as dozens of lawsuits brought by his campaign alleging voter fraud failed. After the insurrection, he was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement of insurrection, but was acquitted by the Senate. Senate Republicans last month also blocked a bill to create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the attack.
In light of the newly obtained documents, the House Oversight and Reform Committee is seeking transcribed interviews with several former Trump administration officials, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who repeatedly pressured the Justice Department to investigate baseless claims of election fraud, according to the emails.
In addition to demonstrating the reach of Mr. Trump's attempts to reverse his election loss to President Biden, the emails also show the former president dispatched at least one outside attorney pushing false election claims to work alongside the Justice Department's highest-ranking officials, including acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall and John Moran, Rosen's chief of staff, and challenge the outcome of the race.
One email dated December 29 sent from Mr. Trump's assistant to Rosen, then-deputy attorney general, Wall and Richard Donoghue, then-principal associate deputy attorney general, included a 54-page draft complaint to be filed with the Supreme Court raising issues with the election results in six key battleground states where Mr. Trump lost.
"The president asked me to send the attached draft document for your review," the assistant wrote, adding the document was also shared with Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Additional emails from Kurt Olsen, a private lawyer who worked with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in his failed bid to get the Supreme Court to overturn the election results, indicated Mr. Trump directed him to discuss further efforts at the high court with top Justice Department officials.
Referencing the unsuccessful request at the Supreme Court by Texas, Olsen emailed Wall on December 29 saying "the president directed me to meet with AG Rosen today to discuss a similar action to be brought by the United States."
"I have not been able to reach him despite multiple calls/texts," Olsen wrote. "This is an urgent matter."
He reached out separately to Moran that day, indicating the two had spoken, and said Mr. Trump "directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action. I have been instructed to report back to the president this afternoon after this meeting."
Moran sent several emails to Rosen reiterating his conversations with Olsen, who also asked him to give the acting attorney general a December 28 letter from a Pennsylvania state senator alleging fraudulent votes were cast in the state.
The documents also reveal that Meadows asked the Justice Department to look into baseless claims of election fraud at least five times. On December 30, Meadows asked Rosen to look into "only the alleged fraudulent activity" in Georgia, forwarding an email from attorney Cleta Mitchell claiming that there were "video issues" involved in counting ballots in Fulton County. Mitchell later participated in a call with Mr. Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Mr. Trump asked Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn Mr. Biden's victory in the state.
Later on December 30, Meadows also emailed Rosen a translation of a letter from an individual in Italy claiming to have "direct knowledge" of a conspiracy in which an Italian facility changed electoral results "in coordination with senior US intelligence officials (CIA)" and "were loaded with information technology onto military satellites." He alleged that the data showed Mr. Trump was "clearly the winner" of the election.
Meadows emailed Rosen three times on January 1 asking the attorney general to investigate multiple conspiracy theories about the election, including sending a YouTube link that addressed the allegation of the outlandish Italian conspiracy.
Rosen forwarded one of Meadows' messages alleging irregularities in Georgia to Donoghue, writing, "Can you believe this? I am not going to respond to message below."
"At least it's better than the last one, but that doesn't say much," Donoghue replied.
Donoghue also called the allegations in the YouTube video circulated by Meadows "pure insanity," while Rosen told him he was asked to have the FBI meet with Brad Johnson, who was interviewed in the video about the baseless claims about Italy.
Johnson, Rosen said, was also working with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump's private attorney who was a central figure in promoting the false claims the election was stolen. The acting attorney general indicated he denied the request to facilitate the meeting between the FBI and Johnson.
"Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, and said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his 'witnesses', and re-affirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this," Rosen said.
The documents released by congressional Democrats also provide a window into the involvement of Jeffrey Clark, a former assistant attorney general. The New York Times reported in January that Mr. Trump plotted with Clark to oust Rosen amid the election controversy.
Clark and Rosen exchanged several emails in early January. In one, Rosen shared the cellphone number of BJ Pak, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia who resigned January 4. In another with the subject line "atlanta," Clark told Rosen, "I spoke to the source and am on with the guy who took the video right now. Working on it. More due diligence to do."
Several congressional committees are continuing investigations into the events leading up to January 6, even though an independent commission was blocked. Speaker Nancy Pelosi may also opt to create a select committee specifically to investigate the attack.