Senate Report Details Trump’s 2020 Election Pressure on DOJ
(Bloomberg) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee has released a report detailing what it called former President Donald Trump’s “relentless, direct pressure” on the Justice Department to help overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The interim report written by the panel’s Democratic majority also listed multiple occasions then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed the department to initiate election fraud investigations.
“Today’s report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement accompanying the release. “Donald Trump would have shredded the Constitution to stay in power. We must never allow this unprecedented abuse of power to happen again.”
Many of the details of how Trump, Meadows and others repeatedly pressed senior Justice Department officials in December 2020 and early January 2021 to advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud have been reported previously. But the committee’s interviews with several former Justice Department officials amplify some of what happened.
A spokesman for Meadows didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has continued to maintain that the election was stolen.
Republicans on the committee issued a minority report contending that Trump’s concerns and activities centered on “legitimate complaints” and “reports of crimes” and how they affected the electoral system.
Among the majority’s key findings: Trump had at least nine phone calls or meetings with then-Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue from the day Attorney General William Barr announced his resignation on Dec. 14 until the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by Trump supporters.
The committee majority also said it confirmed that Meadows asked Rosen to initiate election fraud investigations several times, including that Meadows asked Rosen to meet with Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The report details the conduct of Jeffrey Clark, who was acting assistant attorney general heading the Civil Division. It said Clark attempted to induce Rosen to help “Trump’s election subversion scheme” by telling the acting attorney general that he would decline Trump’s offer to install him in Rosen’s place if Rosen agreed to pursue inquiries into the unsupported allegations of election fraud.
Based on the eight months of investigation so far, the committee said it has asked the District of Columbia Bar to look into whether Clark complied with its rules of professional conduct.
For now, the committee says it is withholding potential recommendations about criminal culpability and criminal referrals until the investigation is complete.
The interim report was sent out with previously unreleased transcripts of the committee’s closed-door interviews with Rosen, Donoghue, and Byung Pak, who was U.S. attorney in Atlanta
The committee majority said it uncovered new details surrounding Trump’s forced resignation of Pak, saying the former president “believed Pak was not doing enough to support his false claims of election fraud in Georgia.” The committee said Trump went outside the line of succession to appoint Bobby Christine as acting U.S. attorney, believing Christine would “do something” about his election fraud claims.
The lawmakers said their investigation continues and they are still seeking records requested from the National Archives and Records Administration, which have not yet been supplied, and more interviews.
The committee’s Republicans offered strikingly different interpretations of events, including that Trump didn’t use the Justice Department to try to overturn the election.
By this account, witnesses testified that Trump’s outreach to DOJ officials focused on making sure they were “aware” of election fraud allegations and that they were doing their job to investigate them, rather than issuing orders to take certain actions.
“The available evidence shows that President Trump did what we’d expect a president to do on an issue of this importance: He listened to his senior advisers and followed their advice and recommendations,” Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel, said in a statement.
Grassley, who recently announced that he is running for re-election at age 88, will be a featured speaker at a Trump rally in Iowa on Saturday.
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