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Senate report details Trump's efforts to use DOJ to overturn election results

Former President Donald Trump attends a rally in support of Georgia Republican Senators in December 2020.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump attends a rally in support of Georgia Republican Senators in December 2020.

Aninterim report from the Senate Judiciary Committee provides the most detailed look yet at former President Donald Trump's attempts to enlist the Justice Department in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The report from the panel's Democratic majority documents the chaotic final weeks of Trump's presidency following his loss to Joe Biden, and how Trump tried to force Justice Department officials to help him keep his grip on power.

Department leaders ultimately resisted Trump's pressure, but it took threats of mass resignations across the department to get him to back down.

A key moment that emerges in the report is a Jan. 3 meeting in the Oval Office between Trump and senior Justice Department leaders, including then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his top deputy, Richard Donoghue.

Rosen told the committee that Trump opened the three-hour meeting by saying: "One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election."

Trump was already considering replacing Rosen with a lower-ranking department official, Jeffrey Clark, who was promising to pursue Trump's false election fraud claims.

Rosen and his deputies refused to endorse Trump's claims, and pushed back against the president's proposed scheme to dump Rosen for Clark.

The report says Donoghue and others made clear that all of the department's assistant attorneys general would resign if Trump went forward with the scheme, and that mass resignations likely wouldn't end there.

Rosen and Donoghue, who were both interviewed by the committee, said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and another top White House lawyer, Patrick Philbin, also pushed back against Trump's plan, and threatened to quit as well.

The report says Trump continued to entertain the idea of installing Clark at the helm of the Justice Department, and only abandoned the idea at the end of the Oval Office meeting.

The meeting was one of several ways in which Trump sought to pressure the Justice Department to pursue his election fraud claims.

Ultimately, Trump's efforts failed, though he continues to push lies that the election was stolen.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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