'Stunning distortion of DOJ’s authority': Here are 6 key findings in Senate Judiciary's report on Trump election interference
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has released a sweeping report detailing how former President Donald Trump and a former high-ranking lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The Democratic-led committee's 394-page document contains intricate details about the former president's actions in the days after the presidential election was called for President Joe Biden. A number of bombshell claims were revealed in the report and — here are six key takeaways from it.
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."
The report reveals Trump asked the Justice Department for assistance in overturning the election a total of nine times. The call history includes details about who Trump spoke with along with dates those calls took place.
- December 15, 2020 – Oval Office meeting including incoming Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue (both men assumed office when William Barr left on Dec. 23)
- December 23, 2020 – Trump-Rosen Call
- December 24, 2020 – Trump-Rosen Call
- December 27, 2020 – Trump-Rosen-Donoghue Call
- December 28, 2020 – Trump-Donoghue Call
- December 30, 2020 – Trump-Rosen Call
- December 31, 2020 – Oval Office meeting including Rosen and Donoghue
- January 3, 2021 – Oval Office meeting including Rosen and Donoghue
- January 3, 2021 – Trump-Donoghue Call
"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."
Between December 29 and January 1, Meadows pushed for Rosen to open an investigation into "at least four categories of false election fraud claims" being circulated by Trump, his campaign team, legal team and other allies. At the time, no substantial evidence of election fraud had been produced to support any of the claims. The report also breaks down the four key categories Meadows pressed Rosen about:
- "Investigate various discredited claims of election fraud in Georgia that the Trump campaign was simultaneously advancing in a lawsuit that the Georgia Supreme Court had refused to hear on an expedited basis;
- Investigate false claims of 'signature match anomalies' in Fulton County, Georgia, even though Republican state elections officials had made clear "there has been no evidence presented of any issues with the signature matching process."
- Investigate a theory known as 'Italygate,' which was promoted by an ally of the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and which held that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Italian IT contractor used military satellites to manipulate voting machines and change Trump votes to Biden votes. Meadows also asked DOJ to meet with Giuliani on Italygate and other election fraud claims.
- Investigate a series of claims of election fraud in New Mexico that had been widely refuted and in some cases rejected by the courts, including a claim that Dominion Voting Systems machines caused late-night 'vote dumps' for Democratic candidates."
The report also notes that Meadows' actions are in violation of policies that place limitations on communication between White House and DOJ officials in regards to certain law enforcement matters. This policy was put in place after the Watergate scandal.
3. "After personally meeting with Trump, Jeffrey Bossert Clark [former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division] 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."
After having private conversations with Trump, Clark pressed Rosen and Donoghue to announce an investigation into election fraud and have legislatures in key swing states appoint alternate election officials. The report highlights a draft letter Clark sent to Rosen and Donoghue on December 28. The letter, which was addressed to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), the General Assembly Speaker, and Senate President Pro Tempore, included a number of recommended directives, many of which violated election laws.
In fact, Clark's proposed action, which would have had the DOJ override an already-certified popular vote, was described as "a stunning distortion of DOJ's authority," according to the report:
"The letter was titled "Georgia Proof of Concept" and Clark suggested replicating it in "each relevant state." The letter would have informed state officials that DOJ had "taken notice" of election irregularities in their state and recommended calling a special legislative session to evaluate these irregularities, determine who "won the most legal votes," and consider appointing a new slate of Electors. Clark's proposal to wield DOJ's power to override the already-certified popular vote reflected a stunning distortion of DOJ's authority: DOJ protects ballot access and ballot integrity, but has no role in determining which candidate won a particular election."
4. "Trump allies with links to the 'Stop the Steal' movement and the January 6 insurrection participated in the pressure campaign against DOJ."
The report included a brief list of the Trump allies who have been accused of pressuring DOJ officials to do the former president's bidding. Those individuals also had ties to the former president's "Stop the Steal" movement and the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol that followed Trump's rally on January 6.
- Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.): The report indicates that the Republican lawmaker spoke directly to Donoghue about baseless claims of election fraud in his state.
- Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano (R): As an avid Trump ally, Mastriano reportedly "spent thousands of dollars from his campaign account to provide transportation for Trump supporters to attend the 'Save America Rally' on January 6." The report also indicates that he "was present on the Capitol grounds as the insurrection unfolded." Like Perry, Mastriano also spoke with Donoghue in reference to unfounded claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania.
- Trump campaign legal advisor Cleta Mitchell: Described as one of the earliest advocates for Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, the Senate report also notes Mitchell was a "participant in the January 2, 2021 call where Trump 5 pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to 'find 11,780 votes.'"
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."
When former U.S. Attorney General Pak's investigative results did not align with the outcome Trump was hoping for, the outraged former president publicly berated him and described him as "a "Never Trumper." The former president also bulldozed over protocol and the proper line of succession to appoint someone he believed would produce favorable results to help him overturn the presidential election.
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."
On November 9, 2020 the former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr released a memo that "directed prosecutors not to wait until after certification to investigate allegations of voting irregularities that 'could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.'"
In doing this, the report emphasizes Barr "weakened" the DOJ's policy to "avoid taking overt steps in election fraud investigations until after votes were certified, in order to avoid inserting DOJ itself as an issue in the election." His actions before and after the election disregarded the DOJ's longstanding practice.
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