Former US president Donald Trump pressured the department of justice to declare last year’s presidential election corrupt, as he sought to bolster false claims that Joe Biden’s victory was invalid.
Newly released notes taken by a department of justice official during a phone call on December 27th, show that Mr Trump pressed officials to make an intervention.
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. [epublican] congressmen,” Mr Trump said during the call, according to contemporaneous handwritten notes taken by deputy acting attorney general Richard Donoghue. At another point he said: “We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election.”
The House Oversight Committee, which had sought information from the justice department earlier this year about Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, released the notes on Friday.
The new information is a fresh indication of the unprecedented efforts by an outgoing US president to delegitimise the results of the presidential election. Later in the call, Mr Trump referred to several Republican members of congress by name including representatives Jim Jordan and Scott Perry and senator Ron Johnson.
“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,” said committee chair Caroline Maloney.
News of the phone call emerged as the justice department ordered the US treasury to turn over Mr Trump’s tax returns to the Ways and Means committee in Congress.
The committee – led by Irish-American congressman Richard Neal – had requested access to the documents during the Trump presidency, but was rebuffed by the Trump administration.
But in a legal opinion issued by the department on Friday, the US treasury must now turn over the documents. “The chairman of the House Ways and Means committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”
Mr Trump is likely to challenge the legal opinion, setting up a legal standoff. The Manhattan district attorney has already secured access to eight years of the former president’s tax returns following a supreme court ruling as part of an ongoing investigation into his business affairs before he was president.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the development: “I applaud Chairman Neal for his dignified pursuit of the truth and the Biden administration department of justice for its respect for the law,” she said.
“Access to former president Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security. The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president.”