WASHINGTON — During the last weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, despite the fact his former attorney general had said there was no evidence of widespread fraud, according to emails released Tuesday by the House Oversight Committee.
The emails from the Justice Department show the extent to which Trump, his White House chief of staff and other allies pressured then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to join in the Trump campaign’s failing efforts to challenge the election result, including suggesting filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The emails reveal in new detail how Trump pressured the U.S. government to engage in challenging the 2020 election over false claims, even though officials at Homeland Security and Justice, as well as Republican election leaders across the country, repeatedly said there had been no widespread fraud. Former Attorney General William Barr, a longtime Trump loyalist, was among those who said there was no evidence of widespread fraud.
The emails sent to Rosen include debunked conspiracy theories and false information about voter fraud. Trump’s lies about the election helped spur on the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a failed effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
In one instance, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tried to have Rosen investigate conspiracy theories and pushed the acting attorney general to meet with an ally of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who was pitching unfounded election conspiracies that Italy was using satellites and military technology to change votes.
After Rosen forwarded Meadows’ email, Rich Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, sent a note to Rosen that said, “pure insanity.” Rosen wrote back that he was asked to have the FBI meet with Giuliani’s associate and he said no, insisting the man could follow the FBI’s normal protocol for tips and just call the public tip line or take his information to an FBI field office. But Rosen said Giuliani was “insulted” by the answer.
“Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, 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 wrote.
On Dec. 14, the day Electoral College votes were certified, Trump’s White House assistant sent a note to Rosen with the subject “From POTUS,” an acronym for president of the United States. The email included talking points on alleged voter fraud in Antrim County, in a key battleground state, Michigan, such as claims like “a Cover-up is Happening regarding voting machines in Michigan” and “Michigan cannot certify for Biden.”
Just moments after Trump’s assistant sent the documents, Donoghue sent the same documents to the U.S. attorneys in the Eastern and Western districts of Michigan.
On Dec. 29, Trump’s White House assistant emailed Rosen, Donoghue and Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall and included a draft legal brief for the Supreme Court, with a phone number where they could contact him directly.
The proposed complaint asked the court to “declare that the Electoral College votes cast” in the six battleground states that Trump lost “cannot be counted.” It asked for the court to order a special election in those states.
One of Trump’s private attorneys then emailed senior Justice officials urging them to file the complaint. The emails show he repeatedly called Rosen’s senior advisers and others in the Justice Department demanding meetings, saying he was driving from Maryland to Justice Department headquarters in Washington to meet with Rosen because he couldn’t reach him.
“As I said on our call, the President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today and discuss bringing this action,” he wrote in one email. “I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after this meeting.”
Story by Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long, The Associated Press