The Slatest

Trump Pressured Justice Department to Declare Election Was “Corrupt”

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 7, 2021 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 7, 2021 in Bedminster, New Jersey. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

We already knew that former President Donald Trump had pressured Justice Department officials to follow his lead in claiming there was fraud in the election despite the lack of evidence. Now new documents suggest the pressure may have been even worse than initially thought. During a December phone call with acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, Trump had a simple answer when he was told the Justice Department didn’t have the power to change the outcome of an election. “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said on the call, according to Donoghue’s notes.

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Trump said in another part of the call that “We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election.” The notes from the call show how Trump was obsessed with the election results and focused on specific states where he said there was fraud. He received pushback. “Much of the info you’re getting is false,” Donoghue said. Trump kept insisting. “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” Trump said at one point.

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The notes had been handed over to the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Although the notes from the Dec. 27 phone call do not specify the lawmakers Trump had in mind that would help his efforts, in other points of the call he mentioned Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania as well as Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The call amounted to “perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results,” notes the New York Times.

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Democrats said the notes provide further evidence of how Trump tried to get a department that has historically been rather independent from the White House to illegally get involved in the political dogfight and bolster his case that the election was corrupt despite the lack of evidence. “These handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation’s top law enforcement agency to take steps to overturn a free and fair election in the final days of his presidency,” House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement. Trump released a statement Saturday blasting the Oversight committee for releasing the documents, calling it “corrupt and highly partisan.”

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The notes of the conversation are “intriguing” and show why a full investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is needed, writes the Washington Post’s Dan Balz. He explains:

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What did Trump mean when he said, “leave the rest to me and the R. congressmen.” What did Trump have in mind, beyond trying to bend Pence to act beyond his constitutional authorization and send the vote counts back to states, which Pence refused to do?

As with so much of Trump’s presidency, much of what he did to attack the institutions of democracy after the election was there for all to see. The new information is a reminder, however, that not everything he did was done in plain sight. How much more is there?

The value of a full investigation into what happened leading up to and including Jan. 6 is to tell the story whole. It is a story that begins not with the marauders who overwhelmed law enforcement officials at the Capitol. It begins long before and with Donald Trump. If it were not for him and what he did to try to subvert the election, it is doubtful the Capitol would have needed defending on Jan. 6.

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