Former President Donald Trump suffered a pair of setbacks Friday when the Justice Department cleared the way for the release of his tax records and also disclosed a memo showing he urged top officials to falsely claim his election defeat was "corrupt."
Handwritten notes taken by Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue in December and released Friday by the chair of the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee paint a damning picture of Trump as he desperately sought to get the department to take the unprecedented step of intervening to try to upend his 2020 election loss.
Hours later, the department cleared the way for the Internal Revenue Service to hand over Trump's tax records to congressional investigators — a move he has long fought.
The fact that the Justice Department allowed the handwritten notes concerning the election to be turned over to congressional investigators marked a dramatic shift from actions taken during the Trump administration, which repeatedly invoked executive privilege to skirt congressional scrutiny.
Department 'won't snap its fingers'
The newly released notes detail a December 27 phone call in which Jeffrey Rosen, who was appointed as acting attorney general a few days later, is quoted as telling Trump: "Understand that the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election."
"Don't expect you to do that," Trump replied. "Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen," in a reference to Republican lawmakers.
Trump's representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department ordered the IRS to hand over Trump's tax returns to a U.S. House of Representatives congressional committee, saying the panel had invoked "sufficient reasons" for requesting it.
The department's Office of Legal Counsel reversed course and declared the department had erred in 2019 when it found that the request for Trump's taxes by the House Ways and Means Committee was based on a "disingenuous" objective aimed at exposing them to the public.
The Justice Department's actions will make it easier for congressional investigators to interview key witnesses and collect evidence against Trump.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department decided that because of "compelling legislative interests," it was authorizing six former Trump administration officials to sit for interviews with the House Oversight Committee. These include Rosen and Donoghue, as well as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who resigned amid pressure from Trump.
Also among the six was former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, who became the subject of a Justice Department inspector general's investigation after news reports said he'd plotted with Trump in a failed bid to oust Rosen so he could launch an investigation into alleged voter fraud in Georgia.
In the December 27 call with Rosen, Trump threatened to put Clark in charge, according to the handwritten notes, telling Rosen: "People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership."
'We are doing our job'
Throughout the call, Trump repeatedly pushed false claims that the election had been stolen. "You guys may not be following the internet the way I do," Trump said.
Rosen and Donoghue tried to tell Trump his information was incorrect multiple times.
"We are doing our job," the notes say. "Much of the info you're getting is false."
A little more than a week later, based on Trump's false claims that the election was stolen, thousands of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election.