Notes Detail Trump Pressure on DOJ, AG Jeffrey Rosen, Jan. 6 Hearing Shows

House committee members investigating the January 6 Capitol riot shed new light Thursday on resurfaced handwritten notes that indicated former President Donald Trump allegedly pressured Justice Department (DOJ) officials to call the 2020 election results "corrupt."

Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general who took the notes, and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified at the latest hearing before the select committee. Both were on the December 27, 2020, phone call with Trump in which he allegedly asked for their help in overturning the election results during the final days of his presidency.

Donoghue's testimony Thursday came during the fifth installment in the series of hearings that the House panel is holding to present evidence that it says shows a coordinated effort tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power. Previous hearings focused on former Vice President Mike Pence, state election officials and how Trump allegedly refused to listen when members of his circle refuted claims of voter fraud, among other matters.

The fifth hearing has taken a deeper dive into how the former president allegedly carried out a "pressure campaign" against DOJ officials to advance false claims about the 2020 election.

According to Donoghue's notes, which were initially released in July 2021 by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rosen urged Trump to "understand the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn't work that way."

Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans on the House committee, asked Donoghue how Trump responded when Rosen told him the DOJ couldn't alter the election results.

"He responded very quickly and said, essentially, 'That's not what I'm asking you to do. What I'm just asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,'" Donoghue said.

This is consistent with Donoghue's notes, which show that Trump, referred to as "P," responded: "Don't expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."

During the hearing, Kinzinger read the above comment that was attributed to Trump out loud. He then asked Donoghue to confirm that it was a direct quote from the former president.

"That's an exact quote from the president, yes," Donoghue responded.

Donoghue Jan. 6 Testimony
Richard Donoghue, a former acting deputy attorney general, took notes that indicate former President Donald Trump allegedly pressured Justice Department officials to call the 2020 election results "corrupt." Above, Donoghue speaks outside the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on February 12, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump has denied that he urged DOJ officials to call the 2020 election "corrupt."

Kinzinger noted another section of Donoghue's notes where he quoted Trump asking, "Where is the DOJ?" Asked how he responded to the president, Donoghue said that he and Rosen tried to explain that the DOJ has "a very important, very specific, but very limited role in these elections."

"States run their elections. We are not quality control for the states," Donoghue said. "We are obviously interested in and have a mission that relates to criminal conduct in relation to federal elections. We also have related civil rights responsibilities.

"So we do have an important role, but the bottom line was if a state ran their election in such a way that it was defective, that is for the state or Congress to correct. It is not for the Justice Department to step in," he testified.

Responding to a question from Kinzinger, Donoghue confirmed that a comment attributed to Trump in the notes—that DOJ officials "have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election"—was also a direct quote from the former president.

Donoghue said he began taking the handwritten notes only because Trump brought up an allegation of election fraud that he was not already aware of and wanted to jot it down so he could look into it.

"As the conversation continued, I just continued to take the notes," he said.

Donoghue described Trump's demeanor during the call as "agitated," saying that the former president was "adamant" that he had won the election and that the DOJ was not doing its job.

The notes also suggest that Trump floated the idea of installing Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department environmental lawyer, as the head of the DOJ during the call.

GOP Representative Liz Cheney, who is serving as the House panel's vice chair, said during the first hearing that the committee would look into Trump's alleged attempt to replace the attorney general "so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims."

Cheney directly quoted a Trump comment in the handwritten notes in which he instructed the DOJ officials to call the election "corrupt." She added that viewers would hear a firsthand account of how senior DOJ leadership threatened to resign in response to Trump's purported plan.

At the second hearing, the panel played a brief clip of recorded testimony from Donoghue where he spoke about telling Trump that the DOJ had conducted dozens of investigations and hundreds of interviews but the "major allegations" of election fraud were not supported by evidence. Donoghue also told Trump that much of the information the former president was receiving "was false."

Newsweek reached out to Donoghue and a Trump spokesperson for comment.

​​Updated 6/23/22, 4:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional details from Richard Donoghue's testimony before the January 6 committee.

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