A nearly 400-page report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday caps an eight-month investigation into former President Trump’s efforts to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate his claims of election fraud.
The report details how DOJ officials repeatedly resisted Trump and other administration officials’ efforts focusing on many now-debunked theories.
The report is based on documents, emails and testimony from then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who threatened to resign amid pressure from Trump; and Byung Pak, who was ousted from his U.S. attorney role in Georgia following dissatisfaction from Trump.
Zooming in on the role played by Perry
The report offers new glimpses into Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) role in Trump’s efforts, pinpointing him as the person who connected Trump to Jeffrey Clark, an otherwise little-known DOJ official who was involved in a plan to remove Rosen from office.
It was Perry who invited Clark to a December meeting at the White House, the report says, to discuss Trump’s demands for an investigation into the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania.
He also called Donoghue after Trump gave him his number and then pressured the Justice official to look into Pennsylvania’s election. He also talked up Clark during the phone conversation, the report states.
“Perry told Donoghue that Trump had asked him to call and that DOJ hadn’t done its job with respect to the elections. Perry added something to the effect of, ‘I think Jeff Clark is great. I like that guy a lot. He’s the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this,’” the report states.
“At the end of the call, Perry indicated that he had information about ‘things going on in Pennsylvania,’ including the claim that there were 205,000 more votes than voters,” the report continued, adding that Perry “included several refuted allegations of election fraud in Pennsylvania” such as that some 4,000 voters had cast ballots twice.
It confirms Trump forced Pak to resign
The report closed in gaps about the abrupt resignation of Pak, who served as U.S. attorney for the district encompassing Atlanta.
The report details how Pak “had not previously decided to resign on Jan. 4” and was planning to stay until Inauguration Day so as to not disrupt the state’s special election on Jan. 5.
But he was instead ousted following disapproval from Trump, who wanted an ally in the role to assist with his election fraud efforts in Georgia, which along with Pennsylvania was one of five states he was contesting.
In December, Pak was approached by then-Attorney General William Barr to make finding out more about Rudy Giuliani’s allegations of voter fraud in Georgia “a ‘top priority’ because they might come up at an upcoming meeting Barr would attend at the White House.”
The issue came to a head shortly after Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to ask him to “find 11,780 votes,” which was the number that might have provided a victory for the Republican in the state.
“Donoghue told us that Trump looked at a piece of paper on his desk and responded ‘Atlanta, Atlanta, no surprise there. They didn’t find anything. No surprise because we have a never-Trumper there as U.S. Attorney,’” the report states.
Donoghue described Trump as being “fixated” on Pak. He said he ultimately told the then-president: “I’m not going to fire him. There’s no reason to fire him.”
But Donoghue relayed that Pak already planned to submit his resignation.
That teed up a conversation over who would replace Pak, with Trump wanting to buck the tradition of selecting Pak’s deputy and instead choose Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
“Trump insisted on appointing Christine instead, telling Donoghue something to the effect of, ‘if he’s good, he’ll find out if there’s something there.’”
More information could be forthcoming
The committee has faced hurdles gaining access to some information it sought for the investigation.
The report says that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which controls documents from the Trump White House, has not turned over documents that relate to communications between White House and Justice Department officials between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20. The committee requested these documents in May.
“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,” the report states.
A representative for NARA said they are in receipt of the request and would respond to it in accordance with rules governing presidential records but did not offer further information on the delay or a time frame.
The committee was also unsuccessful in obtaining testimony from Clark, despite the Justice Department authorizing him to sit for an interview in July. The report says that Clark has not agreed to sit for a voluntary interview.
When asked whether the committee plans to subpoena Clark, a spokeswoman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said that committee rules require bipartisan support in order to issue a subpoena and that there is currently not support among Republican members for such a step.
It gives a new glimpse into a key Oval Office meeting
Testimony from two witnesses, Rosen and Donoghue, offers new details of a key Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting during which top Trump administration officials warned of mass resignations if Trump sided with Clark’s plan to probe unfounded election fraud theories.
Clark had drafted a letter to Georgia officials in late December calling on them to call a special legislative session to examine supposed election irregularities. Clark later informed Rosen, who rejected his plans, that Trump was prepared to fire him and replace him with Clark if he didn’t follow through with them.
It all culminated in the Sunday evening meeting in the Oval Office. Rosen, Donoghue and Clark, were joined by White House lawyers Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, Eric Herschmann and another Justice Department official, Steve Engel.
“[Trump] opened the meeting by saying ‘One thing we know is Jeff Rosen leading the Justice Department, nothing is going to get done in trying to overturn the election,’” Rosen recalled of the meeting in his testimony to the Judiciary panel.
The tense meeting took place over about three hours as Trump debated with the group whether to replace Rosen with Clark. Rosen described the meeting a “six against one” — with all the participants besides Trump arguing against Clark.
Trump was “very frustrated,” recalled Donoghue. At one point, Cipollone warned that the Georgia letter was a “murder-suicide pact” that “will damage anyone and anything that it touches,” according to Donoghue’s testimony.
Ultimately, Trump sided with the majority of the participants in deciding not to follow Clark’s plan or tap him to replace Rosen.
Donoghue recalled that Trump looked at Clark and said he appreciated him for “being willing to step up and take all the abuse” but that it wasn’t worth the “breakage” of mass resignations.
Report overlaps with special Jan. 6 panel
Donoghue’s testimony to the committee comes amid reporting from Politico that he recently sat down with investigators from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The report also dovetails with the House’s investigatory efforts in focusing on the role played by then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The House committee recently subpoenaed Meadows, as well as several organizers of the Jan. 6 rally where Trump spoke shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol.
The House committee has also hinted it may seek the records of lawmakers involved in the “Stop the Steal” effort, the name given to efforts to overturn President Biden’s win in the election. It’s a group that very well could include Perry.
The Senate report specifically recommends investigating Perry and others, noting that Trump told DOJ officials “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the select committee, suggested the Senate report would be a resource for its own work.
“This report has provided alarming details about the lengths to which the former President and his associates went trying to overturn the 2020 election. I take to heart the recommendations to the Select Committee, and this report will be an important resource as we work to develop the context in which the events of January 6th occurred,” Thompson said in a statement.
Via The Hill