October 07, 2021

Following 8 Month Investigation, Senate Judiciary Committee Releases Report on Donald Trump's Scheme to Pressure DOJ & Overturn the 2020 Election

Durbin: America was only a half-step away from a full-blown constitutional crisis

WASHINGTON – Following an eight-month investigation, the Senate Judiciary Committee today released new testimony and a staff report, “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and his Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.” The report and testimony reveal that we were only a half-step away from a full blown constitutional crisis as President Donald Trump and his loyalists threatened a wholesale takeover of the Department of Justice (DOJ). They also reveal how former Acting Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark became Trump’s Big Lie Lawyer, pressuring his colleagues in DOJ to force an overturn of the 2020 election.

The report sheds new light on Trump’s relentless efforts to coopt DOJ into overturning the 2020 election and Clark’s efforts to aid Trump.  The Committee’s interim report is the first comprehensive accounting of those efforts, which were even more expansive and troubling than previously reported. 

Based on findings from the investigation so far, the Committee has asked the D.C. Bar to open an investigation into Jeffrey Clark’s compliance with applicable rules of professional conduct.  These rules include Rule 1.2, which prohibits attorneys from assisting or counseling clients in criminal or fraudulent conduct, and Rule 8.4, which among other things prohibits conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice. The Committee is withholding potential findings and recommendations about criminal culpability until the investigation is complete.

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on today’s report release:

“Today’s report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis.  Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the Department to his will.  But it was not due to a lack of effort.  Donald Trump would have shredded the Constitution to stay in power.  We must never allow this unprecedented abuse of power to happen again.”

Key takeaways from the Committee’s investigation include:

  • Previously-unreleased transcripts of the Committee’s closed-door interviews with three key former senior DOJ officials: former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak. These witnesses cooperated with the Committee, and although their testimony was not under oath, they were obligated by 18 U.S.C. § 1001 to tell the truth.
  • New details of Donald Trump’s relentless, direct pressure on DOJ’s leadership. This includes at least nine calls and meetings with Rosen and/or Donoghue starting the day former Attorney General Bill Barr announced his resignation and continuing almost until the January 6 insurrection—including near-daily outreach once Barr left DOJ on December 23. 
  • New details of then-Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Clark’s misconduct, including his attempt to induce Rosen into helping Trump’s election subversion scheme by telling Rosen he would decline Trump’s offer to install him in Rosen’s place if Rosen agreed to aid that scheme.
  • New details around Trump forcing the resignation of U.S. Attorney Pak because he believed Pak was not doing enough to support his false claims of election fraud in Georgia—and then went outside the line of succession to appoint Bobby Christine as Acting U.S. Attorney because he believed Christine would “do something” about his election fraud claims.
  • New details of how, at Barr’s direction, DOJ deviated from decades-long practice meant to avoid inserting DOJ itself as an issue in the election—and instead aggressively pursued false claims of election fraud before votes were certified. 
  • Confirmation that Mark Meadows asked Rosen to initiate election fraud investigations on multiple occasions, violating longstanding restrictions on White House intervention in DOJ law enforcement matters—and new details about these requests, including that Meadows asked Rosen to meet with Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Based on these findings, the interim report makes the following recommendations:

  • Congress should strengthen longstanding DOJ and White House policies restricting the circumstances under which DOJ and White House officials can communicate with one another about specific law enforcement matters.
  • DOJ should strengthen its longstanding election non-interference policy, which is meant to avoid inserting DOJ as an issue into a pending election.
  • The D.C. Bar should scrutinize Clark’s compliance with applicable bar rules.
  • The Committee is withholding potential recommendations about criminal culpability and criminal referrals until the investigation is complete.

In January 2021, following a report from The New York Times that detailed a plot between Trump and Clark to use DOJ to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, Durbin led the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter to then-Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson calling on him to preserve and produce all relevant materials in the DOJ’s possession, custody, or control related to this plot.  This kicked off the Committee’s eight-month investigation.  The Committee continues to seek records requested from the National Archives and Records Administration, which have not yet been supplied, and continues to pursue interviews with relevant individuals as part of this ongoing investigation.

A link to today’s report is available here.

A link to the transcripts of the Committee’s closed-door interviews with former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak is available here.

-30-