The House Oversight Committee released handwritten notes on Friday authored by former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who recorded two late-December meetings in which former president Trump tried to use the DOJ to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The notes provide a new window into the ways in which Trump sought to use the power of federal law enforcement to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, pushing federal prosecutors to investigate a range of bizarre conspiracy theories in service of casting a pall over the results. Specifically, the notes suggest that the former president wanted Justice Department officials to declare that the election had been “corrupt” as part of a bid to help him and his allies in Congress overturn the results.
“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,” House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said in a statement.
Donoghue made records of two encounters — one on Dec. 27, and the other on Dec. 29, 2020.
The New York Times first reported the notes’ existence. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump called acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen nearly daily as he sought to use the DOJ to overturn the election.
The notes seem to provide evidence that Trump worked closely with far-right members of Congress to overturn the results. In one note, Donoghue wrote that Trump wanted the DOJ to “just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.’”
They also demonstrate how far absurd conspiracy theories like Italygate, which posits that an Italian defense contractor used military satellites to change the outcome of the election, made it into the White House. One page of notes show senior White House officials discussing having the FBI investigate the theory.
Dec. 27 phone call between Trump, Donoghue, and Rosen
The first batch of notes show a phone call in which Trump pressured senior DOJ leadership – the acting attorney general and his immediate deputy – to declare the 2020 election “corrupt.”
Trump purportedly suggested on the call that he would fire both Donoghue and Rosen if they didn’t comply.
“People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in,” reads one line in the notes, referring to the DOJ official who tried to to replace Rosen as acting attorney general in the last days of the Trump administration, as part of the campaign to overturn the election results. “People want me to replace DOJ leadership.”
Donoghue wrote in his notes that the DOJ officials told Trump that the Department could not “snap its fingers” and “change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.”
Trump purportedly replied that he didn’t expect them to do that. “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said, per the notes.
Less than two weeks before the Jan. 6 certification vote and the Capitol insurrection, the notes link Trump’s demands that the DOJ intervene in the election outcome with the work of his Republican allies in Congress.
Trump also discussed some of the details around debunked allegations of electoral fraud, saying that elections in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada had been “corrupted.”
“People are angry,” Trump remarked, saying that thousands of people were calling U.S. Attorney’s Offices with evidence about the mythical fraud.
“You guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” the notes record Trump as saying.
Later on in the conversation, Donoghue wrote that he pushed back.
“We are doing our job,” the notes record him as saying. “Much of the info you’re getting is false.”
Some of the specific allegations that Trump raised on the call purportedly included “double voting,” dead people voting, and cash-for-votes.
Donoghue told Trump that DOJ had done dozens of investigations and hundreds of interviews, but that none of the evidence was panning out. According to the notes, the president replied that, “We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election,” before suggesting that Donoghue himself go to Fulton County, Georgia and “do a signature verification.”
“You’ll see how illegal it is,” Trump remarked.
The notes also show that Trump praised both Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as a “fighter” and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for having “done a great job getting to the bottom of things.”
Dec. 29 meeting with senior White House officials
Donoghue also took notes on a Dec. 29 meeting with senior White House officials, only identified by their acronyms: “C of S, WH Counsel (PC+PP), DAG, RPD, SE.” Maloney’s office said that they’re likely White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin, Rosen, Donoghue, and Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel.
That meeting covered even stranger ground than the internet-influenced Dec. 27 phone call.
This time, the focus was ItalyGate: the Big Lie conspiracy theory which blames the machinations of Italian defense operatives and their communications satellites as the real culprit for Trump’s fake loss.
Donoghue found himself in that Dec. 29 meeting recording the main characters in the conspiracy theory, including the name of Arturo D’Elia: an Italian defense contractor. In the world of the theory, D’Elia supposedly signed an Italian affidavit stating that he interfered in the election.
“Claims involvement in vote changing in US 2020,” the notes read.
The notes also reference a firm called US Aerospace Partners – the holding company for Iceland’s WOW Air and the vehicle of Michele Ballarin, the West Virginia-born woman who used the company to promote the ItalyGate theory.
A separate document release last month showed Mark Meadows forwarding a letter from a US Aerospace Partners employee to DOJ leadership claiming that the Mediterranean nation was responsible for fraud in the 2020 election.
The notes suggest that senior officials discussed whether it was done “in coordination w/ CIA offices in Embassy – Via Venetto – US Embassy Rome.” The conspiracy theory alleges that the satellite-based vote manipulation occurred via operatives at the American Embassy in Rome.
Notes from that meeting also list former Chapman University law professor John Eastman as someone that “P trusts,” and make an oblique reference to an “election issue” in Pennsylvania, regarding an investigation into “the claim that certification > # of votes cast.”
Read the notes here: