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It should have been bigger news at the time. Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen reportedly rebuffed attempts from then-President Donald Trump to have the U.S. Department of Justice cast doubt on his electoral defeat.
Rosen’s brave act? He dared to follow the facts.
We already knew that Trump has been dangerously irresponsible in fueling his stolen election narrative, despite the repeated findings of recounts, audits and court rulings. And we already knew that this false argument culminated with an attack on Congress during the constitutionally prescribed counting of electoral votes.
But the reports about Rosen’s testimony in early August add additional insight into just how persistent Trump was — not just in making these irresponsible claims to the American people without actually providing the evidence, but also in how he tried to use the power of federal institutions to further his own personal and electoral benefit.
It’s true that much of the information available about Rosen’s closed-door testimony has come from unnamed sources or Democratic lawmakers discussing it. That’s certainly important to keep in mind. But some of the most eye-opening information (again released by Democrats) is not secondhand retelling of someone’s testimony, but notes from late December taken by Rosen’s deputy Richard Donoghue about a call both men were on with Trump.
As reported by the Associated Press, those notes indicate Rosen told Trump the Justice Department “can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.” Trump’s response, according to the notes: “Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen.”
This is not, and cannot, become normal for an American president.
According to the Hill, Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington responded to the Washington Post report on Rosen’s testimony in a statement, saying, “We don’t need selective, partisan leaks from closed door testimony to know that President Donald J. Trump rightfully voiced his belief that America deserved a complete investigation into the 2020 election.”
“Sadly, the media has become obsessed with going after any American who is brave enough to ask questions and seek the truth, instead of actually looking into the serious and substantiated evidence of fraud,” Harrington continued.
But the media has looked into it. Courts have looked into it. The Department of Justice looked into it, before Trump’s call with Rosen and Donoghue in December. As the farcical audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County has again demonstrated, many of the people yelling the loudest about fraud simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
While former Attorney General William Barr, Rosen and other officials deferred to the factual record from investigations, lawsuits, recounts and audits, the people trying to advance Trump’s arguments in court and in the court of public opinion claimed “evidence” of fraud but failed to produce it.
As a federal judge recently spoke to in an ongoing defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell never actually produced pieces of evidence she claimed to have, and has turned to a defense that reasonable people would not have taken her statements as facts. And on Aug. 25, a federal judge in Michigan ordered sanctions against Powell and other attorneys who challenged 2020 election results in that state. These attorneys will have to pay the legal fees of election officials and could potentially face suspension or disbarment.
We’re not ready to lionize Rosen for doing what any attorney general should do, and that is stand up to any president trying to use the Justice Department as a personal tool to bolster unsubstantiated and disproven claims about their election defeat. But based on these recent reports, we’re certainly thankful he seems to have stood up to this dangerous pressure.