- An official was prepared to resign over Trump's "direct instructions" to use the DOJ to overturn the election, per CNN.
- He drafted a resignation letter in case Trump fired the acting AG, but the AG survived Trump's wrath.
- The DOJ turned the letter over to the House Oversight Committee as it investigates the Capitol riot.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
A top official at the Justice Department was prepared to resign in January because of then-President Donald Trump's "direct instructions" to use the department to push bogus claims of election fraud, CNN reported on Wednesday.
The official, Patrick Hovakimian, was the chief of staff to acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen. Hovakimian drafted his resignation letter on January 3, anticipating that Trump would fire Rosen and replace him with a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark. At the time, Clark was the acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ's civil division, and he supported Trump's efforts to intervene in Georgia's election certification.
"This evening, after Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the President's direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice's law enforcement powers for improper ends, the President removed Jeff from the Department," Hovakimian wrote in the draft letter, according to CNN.
CNN reported that Hovakimian's letter was addressed to top DOJ officials but never sent because Trump didn't fire Rosen. The department turned the letter over to the House Oversight and Reform Committee as part of the panel's investigation into the events that preceded the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6. The committee also interviewed Hovakimian. CNN reported that he was one of half a dozen officials who had been prepared to resign if Trump fired Rosen.
Rosen ultimately survived Trump's wrath and stayed on until President Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20. But even he expressed deep concerns with Trump's efforts to weaponize the DOJ to overturn the election results.
A memo written by Rosen's deputy, Richard Donoghue, said that in a phone call on December 27, Trump urged Rosen and Donoghue to "just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me." Donoghue's contemporaneous memo summarizing the conversation was turned over to the House committee.
Rosen and Donoghue pushed back, telling Trump that "much of the info you're getting is false" and that his fraud allegations "don't pan out," the memo said. Donoghue wrote that the DOJ had conducted "dozens of investigations" and "hundreds of interviews" related to the allegations and found no evidence of widespread election malfeasance.
But Trump refused to back down, saying, "You guys may not be following the internet the way I do," according to the memo.
Days later, Rosen and Donoghue again expressed shock and concern at Trump's and his aides' efforts to nullify the election results.
In an email on January 1, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, asked Rosen to get Clark to investigate "signature match anomalies" in Fulton County, Georgia.
"Can you get Jeff Clark to engage on this issue immediately to determine if there is any truth to this allegation," Meadows wrote.
Rosen forwarded that email to Donoghue and wrote: "Can you believe this? I am not going to respond to message below."
In another email that day, Meadows asked Rosen to look into a conspiracy theory that the US Embassy in Rome somehow switched votes from Trump to Biden during the election.
Rosen forwarded Meadows' email to Donoghue, to which Donoghue replied, "Pure insanity."
"Yes," Rosen responded. The acting AG found Meadows' request so concerning that he contemporaneously documented the conversation.
Trump has continued to claim that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election and that the race was "rigged" and stolen from him.
In fact, nonpartisan election and cybersecurity experts have said that the election was the safest and most secure in US history. But that hasn't stopped Republican state legislatures from passing a slew of bills that would not only make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots but make it easier for partisan forces to control and potentially overturn states' election results.