How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election
October 7, 2021
Read “Subverting Justice,” the damning interim staff report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election. The text below is from the introduction of the report. “Subverting Justice” details the sustained, audacious, unprecedented and arguably criminal efforts of Trump and his allies to overthrow the election and is supported by hundreds of pages of documentary and photographic evidence. Watch this space for the full text of the final report, not to mention the results of the ongoing House investigation into the now infamous January 6th insurrection.
On January 22, 2021, the New York Times reported that Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Division, sought to involve DOJ in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and plotted with then President Trump to oust Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who reportedly refused Trump’s demands. On January 23, 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had urged DOJ to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate President Biden’s victory. These reports followed Trump’s months-long effort to undermine the results of the election, which culminated in the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary immediately launched an investigation into Trump’s reported efforts to enlist DOJ in his election subversion scheme. On January 23, 2021, the Committee asked DOJ to produce documents related to these efforts. DOJ cooperated with the Committee’s request, producing several hundred pages of calendars, emails, and other documents in the ensuing months.
On May 20, 2021, following DOJ’s production of emails from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to Rosen asking DOJ to investigate several debunked election fraud claims, the Committee asked the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for additional Trump White House records related to Trump’s attempts to secure DOJ’s help in overturning the election results. The Committee’s request sought White House records between November 3, 2020 and the end of Trump’s presidency related to meetings and communications between and among White House and DOJ officials. NARA has not responded to date, and has represented to the Committee that the delay in transitioning electronic Trump records from the White House to NARA may prevent the Committee from obtaining a response for several more months.
In addition to obtaining and reviewing documents, the Committee interviewed key former DOJ personnel, including Rosen, former Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung Jin (“BJay”) Pak. DOJ and the White House authorized these witnesses to testify about their internal communications without restriction, citing the Committee’s “compelling legislative interests … in understanding these extraordinary events: namely, the question whether former President Trump sought to cause the Department to use its law enforcement and litigation authorities to advance his personal political interests with respect to the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
The Committee also requested to interview Clark, whom DOJ authorized to testify on the same terms as the other former DOJ officials. DOJ authorized Clark’s appearance on July 26, 2021. More than two months after DOJ authorized him to testify without restriction, Clark still has not agreed to the Committee’s request that he sit for a voluntary interview.
The Committee continues to investigate Trump’s efforts to involve DOJ in his election subversion scheme, including by pursuing Trump White House records that NARA has thus far been unable to produce and additional witness interviews as appropriate. Given the gravity of the misconduct the Committee has uncovered to date, however—and in the interest of making a public record of Trump’s efforts to compromise DOJ’s independence—the Committee is releasing this interim staff report. The report makes six primary findings:
FINDING 1: President Trump repeatedly asked DOJ leadership to endorse his false claims that the election was stolen and to assist his efforts to overturn the election results.
FINDING 2: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asked Acting Attorney General Rosen to initiate election fraud investigations on multiple occasions, violating longstanding restrictions on White House-DOJ communications about specific law enforcement matters.
FINDING 3: After personally meeting with Trump, Jeffrey Bossert Clark pushed Rosen and Donoghue to assist Trump’s election subversion scheme—and told Rosen he would decline Trump’s potential offer to install him as Acting Attorney General if Rosen agreed to aid that scheme.
FINDING 4: Trump allies with links to the “Stop the Steal” movement and the January 6 insurrection participated in the pressure campaign against DOJ.
FINDING 5: Trump forced the resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung Jin (“BJay”) Pak, whom he believed was not doing enough to address false claims of election fraud in Georgia. Trump then went outside the line of succession when naming an Acting U.S. Attorney, bypassing First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine and instead appointing Bobby Christine because he believed Christine would “do something” about his election fraud claims.
FINDING 6: By pursuing false claims of election fraud before votes were certified, DOJ deviated from longstanding practice meant to avoid inserting DOJ itself as an issue in the election.
The Committee’s investigation to date underscores how Trump’s efforts to use DOJ as a means to overturn the election results was part of his interrelated efforts to retain the presidency by any means necessary. As has been well-documented by other sources, Trump’s efforts to lay the foundation of the “Big Lie” preceded the general election by several months; Attorney General Barr inserted DOJ into that initial effort through various public remarks and actions prior to November 3, 2020 that cast doubt on voting by mail procedures implemented to facilitate exercise of the franchise during the worst public health crisis in a century. Concurrent with Trump’s post-election attempts to weaponize DOJ, Trump also reportedly engaged in a separate and equally aggressive pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence to set aside the electoral votes of contested states. This “back-up plan,” as it were, culminated on January 4—one day after Clark’s final attempt to wrest control of DOJ from Rosen, and again in the Oval Office—when Trump and outside attorney John Eastman attempted to convince Pence that he could circumvent the certification through a procedural loophole in the Electoral Count Act. All of these efforts, in turn, created the disinformation ecosystem necessary for Trump to incite almost 1,000 Americans to breach the Capitol in a violent attempt to subvert democracy by stopping the certification of a free and fair election.
The full text of the interim staff report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the efforts of Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election can be viewed in your browser by clicking on the link below titled “Subverting Justice.” Other links allow the full text to be downloaded to your device and shared on Twitter and Facebook.