In his final days in office, then-President Donald Trump pressured top Department of Justice officials to challenge his election loss to Joe Biden, the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.
The oversight panel said a cache of more than 200 pages of newly released emails from Justice Department officials and White House staff sheds new light on how Trump tried to undermine the results of the 2020 election and advance unsupported voter fraud claims with the “apparent goal” of keeping himself in power.
The documents show, among other allegations, that Trump in December pressed the Justice Department to file a Supreme Court lawsuit to nullify the election, the committee said.
The dump of new materials came hours before the Oversight Committee was set to hold its second hearing on the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol invasion.
“These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost,” Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a press release.
“Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the Committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy. My Committee is committed to ensuring that the events leading to the violent January 6 insurrection are fully investigated,” Maloney said.
The committee said it has also requested transcribed interviews with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and of four Justice Department officials.
Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
What the emails show
The committee said Tuesday it obtained the emails after sending a May 21 letter to the DOJ requesting documents related to Trump’s “efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election” before the Jan. 6 attack.
The emails, which range from mid-December up to the days before the Capitol invasion, show how Trump, his White House aides and his outside allies repeatedly pressured DOJ officials, the committee said.
On Dec. 14, for instance, Trump’s assistant emailed then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen a raft of attachments claiming an election “Cover-up” was taking place in Michigan, the panel said.
Minutes later, an assistant for Richard Donoghue, then the principal associate deputy attorney general, sent the same information to two U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Michigan, according to the committee.
About 40 minutes after the first email was sent, Trump tweeted that Rosen would be replacing Attorney General William Barr in an acting capacity and that Donoghue would serve as acting deputy attorney general.
That announcement came just moments after the Electoral College voted to formalize Biden’s victory over Trump.
Former President Trump’s endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina’s GOP Senate primary is setting off a round of finger-pointing among frustrated Republicans in the state.
The endorsement, made during a speech to the North Carolina GOP’s convention this month, came as a surprise to state party leaders and other candidates who had believed they were still in the running to receive the most sought-after endorsement in Republican politics. Budd found out about Trump’s decision only minutes before he made the announcement.
But the endorsement has also stirred concern among some Republicans that Trump may be elevating a candidate who they believe could be the least competitive of the top three GOP contenders in an expectedly fierce general election match-up next year.
“He picked a losing horse,” one North Carolina Republican strategist said, arguing that while Budd’s image as a hard-line conservative and Trump loyalist would play well in the GOP primary, “he’s going to have a problem in the general.”
The strategist argued that Budd’s decision in December to join an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the results of the November presidential election in four states, as well as his vote against certifying President Biden’s Electoral College victory, pose a liability for Republicans, who are hoping to avoid relitigating the 2020 election during next year’s midterms.
Trump’s endorsement of Budd came moments after his daughter-in-law Lara Trump announced at the convention that she would not mount a bid to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) next year, putting to rest speculation that the current Republican field would have to contend with a member of the former president’s own family.
Two other top candidates in the GOP primary — former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker — have vented frustration with the way the endorsement unfolded, suggesting that the former president’s advisers and lingering political tensions influenced Trump’s decision to weigh in on the race.
“The audience reaction was telling: the President got bad advice in picking a Washington D.C. insider,” McCrory tweeted after Trump announced his support for Budd. “North Carolina voters will pick the best person to represent them – and I’m looking forward to them supporting us in the Primary and the General.”
Walker, who previously served as the No. 4 House Republican, has pinned blame on Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina, saying that a year-old disagreement between Meadows and himself had factored into the endorsement.
“My first thought — it was that Mark Meadows had orchestrated this whole event,” Walker told the USA Today Network over the weekend. He said that his endorsement last year of Rep. Madison Cawthorn over a Meadows family friend in the House race for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District had caused “friction” with Trump’s former chief of staff.
Walker won a straw poll of delegates at the North Carolina state GOP convention this month with 44 percent support. He has suggested that Trump was not made aware of the results of the straw poll before announcing his endorsement for Budd.
Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican strategist in North Carolina, said that Trump’s endorsement will almost certainly boost Budd in the primary, especially given that he lacks the kind of statewide profile of someone like McCrory, who has run for statewide office three times before.
A poll from the Republican polling firm Spry Strategies released in April showed McCrory leading the GOP primary field with 40 percent support, while Walker finished with 10.5 percent and Budd with 4.8 percent.
Trump’s endorsement of Budd could take the biggest toll on Walker, a staunch Trump ally who was counting on the former president’s support if Lara Trump decided against a run. In 2019, as he announced that he would not seek reelection to his House seat, Walker’s campaign said the former president told him that he would “enthusiastically back” his 2022 Senate bid.
“I would guess that Trump’s endorsement may give Budd a nudge, but Pat’s still got a big lead,” Wrenn said, adding that “Trump is kind of putting Walker in an awkward place.”
Budd’s campaign released an internal poll on Monday signaling the effect Trump’s endorsement could have on the race.
That survey showed McCrory leading Budd 45 percent to 19 percent, with Walker trailing in third at 12 percent support. When respondents were told that Trump had endorsed Budd, his support surged to 46 percent, while McCrory’s shrank to 27 percent and Walker’s to 8 percent.
“We feel good about our chances,” Jonathan Felts, a senior adviser to Budd’s campaign, said in a statement. “McCrory’s donors need to recognize that donating to the McCrory campaign now makes about as much sense as buying stock in the Titanic after she hit the iceberg.”
Despite Trump’s endorsement, other Republican leaders are staying out of the primary for now.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has indicated that it will remain neutral in the 2022 primaries. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has split with Trump in recent months, hasn’t weighed in on the race, though he noted on Monday that he would intervene in primaries “if necessary.”
The North Carolina Republican Party did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on Trump’s endorsement. But in a previous statement to the Washington Examiner, state party Chairman Michael Whatley said that he was not aware of Trump’s plans to endorse Budd and insisted that the state GOP would remain neutral in the primary.
“When President Trump endorsed Congressman Ted Budd for U.S. Senate, he was not speaking on behalf of the NCGOP,” Whatley said. “He made the endorsement completely independently, and the NCGOP was not aware of the endorsement prior to his speech. The NCGOP will continue to remain neutral in all primary races.”
The Senate race in North Carolina is expected to be among the most competitive of the 2022 cycle. While Trump carried the state twice and Democrats failed to unseat Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) last year, Burr’s retirement and the potential for a bruising Republican primary has fueled Democrats’ hopes of capturing the open seat.
While Trump still commands broad support among North Carolina GOP voters, even some Republicans concede that his endorsement alone may not be enough to propel Republicans across the finish line next year, noting that North Carolina’s 2022 Senate race will be a critical test of Trump’s staying power in a perennial battleground state.
“We’ve got to stop looking at his endorsement as the end-all, be-all here,” one North Carolina GOP operative said. “The Democrats are over there saying that all Republicans care about now is Donald Trump, and I don’t want to prove them right. They’re going to hang that around our necks.”
Later in December, Trump’s assistant emailed a draft legal brief to Rosen, Donoghue and acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall.
The 54-page draft complaint would have asked the Supreme Court to declare that the Electoral College votes of six crucial swing states — Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania — “cannot be counted.”
The legal brief also called for the Supreme Court to authorize the states in question to conduct a special election to appoint their presidential electors.
Other emails show Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, repeatedly pushing Rosen to investigate election fraud conspiracy theories — including claims of fraudulent activity being carried out via “military satellites” from Italy.
Trump never conceded to Biden after losing the presidential contest last November. Rather, he falsely claimed he won the election and spread an array of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories alleging that widespread voter fraud had rigged the race against him.
Trump’s lawyers and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits in key swing states he lost and with the Supreme Court, aiming to cancel or overturn Electoral College results. Most of those lawsuits avoided alleging fraud before a court, and none succeeded in flipping any electoral votes to Trump.
The Oversight Committee at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday is holding its second hearing on the Jan. 6 invasion, during which a mob of hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced Congress into hiding, temporarily derailing Biden’s victory from being confirmed.
The hearing aims to address “unanswered questions” about the attempted insurrection, “including the Trump Administration’s failure to anticipate, prepare for, and respond adequately to the attack,” according to the panel.
Rosen in the previous hearing on May 12 refused to say whether Trump directed him to try to advance the spurious claims of election fraud.
Another hearing on the Capitol invasion, this one held by the Committee on House Administration, is also scheduled to start at the same time as the oversight panel’s hearing.
The Administration Committee will from Michael Bolton, inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police, as it examines the department’s response to the violent mob.