August 8, 2021

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump mounted an intense pressure campaign on the U.S. Justice Department to overturn his election defeat in his final weeks in office, the department’s head during that time testified to lawmakers, a senior Senate Democrat said on Sunday.

Former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen provided “invaluable” testimony during seven hours of closed-door testimony on Saturday, in which he implicated Trump in an attempt to subvert the election result, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

According to Durbin, Rosen testified that Trump directly pressured him to falsely assert that continuing election fraud investigations cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s victory.

“It was real. Very real. And it was very specific,” Durbin said of Trump’s pressure on Rosen. “The former president is not subtle when he wants something.”

Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Rosen, a conservative lawyer, for his voluntary cooperation with the committee’s ongoing investigation into Trump’s actions after the election.

“I have to say history is going to very kind to Mr. Rosen when this is all over. When he was initially appointed, I didn’t think that was the case. I was wrong,” Durbin said, adding: “It’s a good thing for America we had someone like Rosen in that position.”

Rosen’s testimony came a week after a House of Representatives committee released Justice Department documents showing Trump had urged top officials last year to falsely claim his election defeat was “corrupt.”

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump told Rosen, referring to Republicans, in a Dec. 27 phone call, according to handwritten notes taken by a Rosen aide.

The notes showed Rosen told Trump the department could not and would not “change the outcome of the election.”

Durbin said in the CNN interview that his committee also wants testimony from former Attorney General Bill Barr, who Rosen replaced during the final weeks of Trump’s presidency.

Barr stepped down in December, shortly after the Electoral College confirmed Trump’s loss to Biden.

Barr had angered Trump by not supporting his false claims that the Nov. 3 election result had been tainted by widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s administration rejected those claims as unfounded.

Durbin said he also wants to hear from former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, who reportedly plotted with Trump to try to oust Rosen so he could take over the Justice Department.

“I would like to bring in Jeffrey Clark, for example,” Durbin said. “He was the heir apparent in Trump’s mind if Rosen was not going to do his bidding. And Rosen stood fast and didn’t.”

When asked if Trump engaged in an attempted coup, Durbin said: “It was leading up to that process.”

Durbin declined to say whether Trump should face criminal charges for his efforts to subvert the election, saying it was too early in the investigation to answer that question.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Alistair Bell)