Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Then-President Donald Trump stands on the Truman Balcony after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images)

Then-President Donald Trump stands on the Truman Balcony after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images)

'Just Say That the Election Was Corrupt,' Trump Told DOJ in December

"It was a failed coup. Call it what it was. It didn't work! But they sure as hell tried."

Kenny Stancil

Additional evidence of former U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to invalidate and reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential race came to light on Friday when the New York Times, using newly obtained documents, reported that Trump pressured top Justice Department officials in late December to declare that "the election was corrupt" so that he and his GOP allies could overturn the results.

According to the Times:

The exchange unfolded during a phone call on December 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the department had disproved. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.

"Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me" and congressional Republican allies. That's how Donoghue, who took notes during the call, summarized Trump's response.

The DOJ provided Donoghue's notes to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating the Trump administration's far-reaching campaign to reverse Trump's loss last November.

In light of the new revelations, committee chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that "these handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation's top law enforcement agency to take steps to overturn a free and fair election in the final days of his presidency."

In response to the Times' bombshell report documenting yet another layer of Trump's attempted power grab, some commentators highlighted the ongoing complicity of the congressional GOP, the vast majority of which continues to legitimize the former president even after he attempted to subvert the will of voters and incited a deadly insurrection on January 6 to block the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

"Trump tried and failed to execute a coup," tweeted The Atlantic's Adam Serwer, "and he remains the most admired and important leader in the Republican Party."

Trump's December 27 call to acting AG Rosen, who took over following the resignation of William Barr, came just three weeks after Trump urged Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp "to call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the Electoral College," as the Washington Post reported at the time.

Hours after Kemp declined to nullify Biden's win in Georgia, Trump slammed Kemp during a rally for refusing to support his authoritarian scheme.

NBC News election reporter Benjy Sarlin on Friday said that "we can't take a continuous historic scandal for granted just because he says it out loud all the time. These are Watergate-level allegations."

The Times reported: 

Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, whom he described as a "fighter"; Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for "getting to bottom of things."

Jordan and Perry were among the 147 Republican lawmakers who—just hours after the violent right-wing riot they helped provoke was contained—voted in the early morning of January 7 to overturn election results in key states, attempting to disenfranchise millions of voters in the process.

Earlier this week, Jordan—whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to appoint to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob—admitted that he spoke with Trump on January 6, "increasing the likelihood that he will be called to testify," the Post reported.

The Times noted that after Rosen and Donoghue told Trump on December 27 that "the Justice Department had no evidence to support a lawsuit regarding the election results," the outgoing president "castigated the officials, saying that 'thousands of people called' their local U.S. attorney's offices to complain about the election and that 'nobody trusts the FBI.'"

According to the newspaper:

[Trump] said that "people are angry—blaming DOJ for inaction."

"You guys may not be following the internet the way I do," Mr. Trump said, according to the document.

In a moment of foreshadowing, Mr. Trump said, "people tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in," referring to the acting chief of the Justice Department's civil division, who had also encouraged department officials to intervene in the election. "People want me to replace DOJ leadership."

"You should have the leadership you want," Mr. Donoghue replied. But it "won't change the dept's position."

A week later, Rosen and Donoghue "would be forced to fight Mr. Clark for their jobs in an Oval Office showdown," the Times noted.

Maloney said the House Committee on Oversight and Reform "has begun scheduling interviews with key witnesses to investigate the full extent of the former president's corruption, and I will exercise every tool at my disposal to ensure all witness testimony is secured without delay."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems to Biden: Overhaul Drone Program That Has Killed Thousands of Civilians

"In too many instances, U.S. drone strikes have instead led to unintended and deadly consequences—killing civilians and increasing anger towards the United States."

Brett Wilkins ·


War With Russia Over Ukraine 'Last Thing' US Needs, Say Progressives

Urging diplomacy over violence, foreign policy experts say "Biden's failure to acknowledge Russia's legitimate security concerns has led to the present impasse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Asked About Black Voters, McConnell Says Quiet, Racist Part Very Loud

"The othering of Americans who aren't white was never a 'quiet part,'" said Rep. Ilhan Omar, "it has always been loud and painful for everyone who has experienced it."

Brett Wilkins ·


'A Basic Human Right': Bowman, Markey Unveil Affordable Energy Bill

Sen. Ed Markey called the proposal "the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families and support a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption."

Julia Conley ·


Heavily Polluted Louisiana Community Asks EPA to Step In

"Louisiana has failed to protect fenceline communities, including St. John residents, from the harms of highly polluting facilities," said one local advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo