House Oversight: Trump, allies pestered DoJ to intervene in election -- to no avail

Embarrassing, but hardly a surprise. Donald Trump spent most of his waking moments on Twitter between the election and January 6th demanding that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and practically everyone including Fish & Game intervene in his election loss. According to the Associated Press and e-mails released by the House Oversight Committee, Trump’s aides and allies peppered the DoJ with requests to do the same.

And got nowhere:

The emails from the Justice Department show the extent to which Trump, his White House chief of staff and other allies pressured then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to join in the Trump campaign’s failing efforts to challenge the election result, including suggesting filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. …

In one instance, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tried to have Rosen investigate conspiracy theories and pushed the acting attorney general to meet with an ally of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who was pitching unfounded election conspiracies that Italy was using satellites and military technology to change votes. …

On Dec. 14, the day Electoral College votes were certified, Trump’s White House assistant sent a note to Rosen with the subject “From POTUS,” an acronym for president of the United States. The email included talking points on alleged voter fraud in Antrim County, in a key battleground state, Michigan, such as claims like “a Cover-up is Happening regarding voting machines in Michigan” and “Michigan cannot certify for Biden.”

Jeffrey Rosen took over from William Barr after the then-AG had had enough after the election. At the time, media outlets and Democrats in Congress fretted that Barr’s departure might leave people in place unwilling or unable to resist Trump’s pressure to act. Rosen turned out to be more than up to the task, however:

After Rosen forwarded Meadows’ email, Rich Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, sent a note to Rosen that said, “pure insanity.” Rosen wrote back that he was asked to have the FBI meet with Giuliani’s associate and he said no, insisting the man could follow the FBI’s normal protocol for tips and just call the public tip line or take his information to an FBI field office. But Rosen said Giuliani was “insulted” by the answer.

“Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ and re-affirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this,” Rosen wrote.

Barr officially left his AG post on December 23rd. There’s no date mentioned regarding Meadows’ e-mail, but presumably Meadows would have communicated with Barr about any pet theories Italian satellites while Barr was AG. If so, this would have been at least a month after Giuliani’s appearance with Sidney Powell and the infamous and insane “Kraken on steroids” pledge. By this point, not only was it not difficult to ignore Giuliani, it would have taken extraordinary temerity to bother talking to him at all. Rosen did well to stand up to this pressure and enforce the regular process of investigation rather than succumb to the escalating nuttiness in those final weeks.

And … Italian satellites? Did we miss a memo? Come si dice “Kraken” in Italiano?

That said, this shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. It’s not a revelation, but it does demonstrate that this episode seriously tested the institutional integrity of our constitutional system. The safeguards held at the DoJ, thanks in no small part to Barr and Rosen, both of whom have been and continue to be unfairly maligned. It also demonstrates the wisdom of a widely distributed electoral system in which the federal government has little power or authority for interventions at all. If we want to strengthen those defenses, the proper strategy would be to curtail Congress’ jurisdiction over Electoral College votes, especially when certified by the states, not to federalize elections.