In testimony before the Jan. 6 committee Thursday, former Justice Department officials described a 90-minute phone call in late December 2020 with then-President Donald Trump during which Trump pleaded with them to declare that the election was "corrupt" despite being told his claims of fraud were false.
During the Dec. 27, 2020, phone call with then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, Trump raised a litany of false allegations about voter fraud. The former officials told the panel that they had investigated every claim and found they had no merit, but that Trump continued to peddle them.
Donoghue said he tried in vain to "educate" Trump.
"I felt in that conversation it was incumbent to make it clear to the president what our investigations had revealed," Donoghue recalled. "I wanted to try to cut through the noise, because it was clear to us that there were a lot of people whispering in his ear feeding him these conspiracy theories and I felt that being very blunt in that conversation might help make it clear to the president that these allegations were simply not true."
Donoghue said that as Trump went through an "arsenal of allegations," he told the president, "No, that is false," one by one, in "a serial fashion as he moved from one theory to another."
Among the allegations Donoghue said Trump was "so fixated on" was a report that claimed there was a 68% error rate in one Michigan county's ballot-counting machines. Donoghue said that a hand recount showed there was one error in more than 15,000 votes cast.
Donoghue said he informed the president of the 0.0063% error rate.
"So that, Mr. President, is an example of what people are telling you that is not true," Donoghue recalled telling Trump.
The committee displayed handwritten notes Donoghue took during the conversation with Trump.
At one point, according to the notes, Rosen told Trump that "the DOJ can't and won't snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election."
"That's not what I'm asking you to do," Trump replied. "What I'm asking you to do is just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
"We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election," Trump continued, according to Donoghue's notes.
Donoghue said that while there were "isolated" instances of voter fraud, "none of them came close" to affecting the outcome of the election.
The hearing was the fifth in a series of presentations by the House select committee of findings stemming from its 11-month investigation of the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Thursday’s panel specifically focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help him subvert his election loss in the weeks leading up to the insurrection.