Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff, pushed the Department of Justice in his boss’ last weeks in office to investigate baseless conspiracy theories and fraud claims about the 2020 presidential election, according to documents obtained by CNN.
The New York Times was the first to report about the documents Saturday.
Meadows sent five emails in late December and early January to then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen asking him to look into election fraud claims in Georgia and New Mexico and other debunked theories that Trump had won the election, according to emails obtained by CNN.
The emails from Meadows add to the flagrant attempts Trump made to pressure the Justice Department to overturn his election loss, an extraordinary overreach to compel the department to take partisan political action for his personal benefit. There is no evidence of widespread election fraud that would overturn the 2020 election results, and it is extremely inappropriate for White House officials to direct the DOJ to investigate specific political matters, as Meadows apparently did.
The emails were uncovered this year as part of a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into whether Justice Department officials were involved in efforts to reverse Trump’s election loss, according to the New York Times.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN in a statement that the “new evidence underscores the depths of the White House’s efforts to co-opt the department and influence the electoral vote certification. This is a five alarm fire for our democracy.”
He added: “I will demand all evidence of Trump’s efforts to weaponize DOJ in his election subversion scheme. Our democracy cannot bend to the deception of Donald Trump’s Big Lie.”
A spokesperson for Meadows said Trump’s former chief of staff would not be commenting on the matter.
Rosen did not immediately respond to a request from the Times for comment. CNN was not able to reach Rosen immediately for comment.
There is no indication in the emails that Rosen agreed to launch any investigations. Rosen has said there wasn’t widespread fraud in 2020, and news reports say he resisted pressure from Trump and others to get involved in overturning the election.
In the one of the emails he sent Rosen, Meadows pressed the Justice Department to look into a baseless allegation that signature match anomalies in Atlanta were enough to overturn Joe Biden’s victory and flip the results for Trump, the Times reported, as well as a list of unproven allegations about potential election wrongdoing in New Mexico.
Meadows also asked Rosen to investigate an unfounded conspiracy theory, known as “Italygate,” which claims people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely switch votes for Trump to Biden on US voting machines. One of the emails appeared to indicate that Rosen had declined to set up a meeting between the FBI and a man who was promoting the Italy conspiracy theory in online videos.
A former Republican congressman from North Carolina, Meadows resigned from Congress in 2020 to be Trump’s fourth chief of staff. He sided with Trump’s disingenuous attacks against mail-in voting and fed his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, which has contributed to the erosion of public trust in the American electoral process.
Online conspiracy theories and Trump’s promotion of the lies about the 2020 election fueled a group of his supporters to violently attack the US Capitol building on January 6 in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election win.
The Senate Judiciary Committee investigation is one of three probes into the previous administration’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Trump’s final days in office, the Times reported. The House Oversight Committee and the Justice Department’s inspector general are also investigating, according to the Times.
The Times reported in January that Trump had pressured Rosen from the onset of his role as acting attorney general to appoint special counsels to investigate baseless claims that the election’s integrity had been widely compromised, and specifically to probe Dominion Voting Systems, which Trump falsely claimed had perpetuated widespread fraud. Trump also plotted to fire Rosen and replace him with a Justice Department lawyer who would then seek to use the department to undo Georgia’s presidential election results, the paper reported.
Trump also pushed the Department of Justice to directly ask the Supreme Court to invalidate Biden’s election win, the Wall Street Journal reported in January. The DOJ didn’t do what Trump wanted and didn’t support a longshot lawsuit from Republican attorneys general that unsuccessfully tried to nullify Biden’s victory.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.