‘Just Say the Election Was Corrupt and Leave the Rest to Me’

Former President Trump called “virtually every day” to bully justice department officials to investigate bogus claims of voter fraud.
Trump Donoghue
Former President Donald J. Trump (L) and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donogue (R). (Photos: Brandon Bell and Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump called top Justice Department officials “virtually every day” in the waning days of his presidency to repeatedly pressure them to investigate his disproven claims about election fraud in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election, according to testimony given during the Jan. 6 select committee hearing Thursday. 

Between Dec. 23, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021, Trump either met with or called acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen every day except Christmas to push his false election fraud claims, Rosen testified to the committee.

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Former Assistant Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he once spent 90 minutes debunking Trump’s false claims about the election being stolen from him one by one. But eventually, Trump gave up trying to convince them of legal merit. 

“Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump said at one point, meaning himself and Republican allies in Congress, according to notes taken by Donoghue and made public during the hearing.

Donoghue reiterated: “That’s an exact quote.”

Donoghue began taking notes during a Dec. 27, 2020, call with Trump, after the former president made yet another false allegation about hundreds of thousands of votes in Pennsylvania being decertified. 

Donoghue explained to Trump that the Justice Department didn’t have a “civil role” to sue states over their election results, and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told Trump the Justice Department couldn’t “snap its fingers and change the results of the election.” Trump “responded very quickly,” Donoghue recalled. 

“He said, essentially, to the effect of, That’s not what I’m asking you to do,’” Donoghue said.

Thursday’s hearing has centered around Trump’s efforts to bully the Department of Justice, including Rosen, into pursuing his false claims that the election was stolen from him. Part of that included proposing elevating Jeffrey Clark, a little-known environmental attorney at the DOJ, to Attorney General, because apparently Clark was willing to back his bogus claims about the election. 

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Donoghue testified before the committee in October 2021 that Trump floated replacing Rosen with Clark, court filings from earlier this year showed. Donoghue said he told Trump, "Sir, I would resign immediately. There is no way I'm serving one minute under this guy." Donoghue also told Trump that the "entire [Justice] Department leadership would resign.”

During a Dec. 31 meeting, Donoghue testified Thursday, Trump threatened to fire both him and Rosen. “Mr. President, you should have the leadership you want,” Donoghue told Trump, “but the Justice Department functions on facts, evidence, and law. And no matter who is in charge, that is not going to change.”

During the hearing, the committee showed clips from a letter which was written by Clark, and meant to be sent to leaders in the Georgia Legislature, asking legislators to “convene a special session” to approve a fake set of electors for Trump, in a state he lost by more than 10,000 votes. 

Donoghue and Rosen refused to sign off on the letter. On Wednesday, federal agents raided Clark’s home in Virginia while he was in his pajamas and “took his electronic devices,” former Trump budget director Russ Vought said Thursday.