The Washington Post published a striking report this week, noting that Donald Trump called Jeffrey Rosen, his acting attorney general, "nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election."
According to the reporting, the then-president would routinely reach out to the nation's top law enforcement official, share rumors of dubious election improprieties he'd heard about, and then ask the acting A.G. what the Justice Department was prepared to do in response.
The article described a ridiculous governing dynamic in which a corrupt president, desperate to keep power he hadn't earned, treated federal law enforcement as if it were a private law firm the Republican kept on retainer.
But as damaging as the revelations were, the story just got much worse. The New York Times reported this morning:
President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so that he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers and obtained by The New York Times. The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda.
According to the reporting, Trump spoke with the acting attorney general and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, on Dec. 27, pressing the officials on voter-fraud claims that the Justice Department already knew to be false. Donoghue reminded the then-president that the department could not help Trump change the election's outcome, but according to the lawyer's notes, the then-president said that wasn't what he was asking for.
"Just say that the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me" and to the White House's congressional allies, Donoghue wrote, summarizing Trump's response.
The then-president didn't specify which congressional allies he was referring to, but the Times' report added that during the same call, Trump referenced Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) -- who was recently rejected as a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack -- as well as Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
As the December discussion progressed, Trump's pitch to the Justice Department leaders grew more ridiculous. Told that federal law enforcement can only act in response to "actual evidence," Trump said "people" are blaming the Justice Department for failing to pursue far-right conspiracy theories.
"You guys may not be following the internet the way I do," Trump said, apparently trying to convince the officials of widespread fraud that didn't exist in reality.
These materials are coming to light because the Justice Department provided the notes to the House Oversight Committee, which has also posted the documents online.
In case this isn't painfully obvious, Trump may be out of office, but these revelations are arguably Watergate-level in their scope. A sitting American president privately urged the Justice Department to lie about the imaginary corruption of a national election, as part of a scheme to hold onto illegitimate power.
"I would like you to do us a favor, though," was a line that came to define Trump's corruption of the presidency. "Just say that the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me" is vastly worse.