After he lost the election, Trump attempted a coup to keep himself in power. Trump hasn't been successful — but his no-holds-barred effort to overturn the election continues.
Trump's effort to cast aside the results of the 2020 presidential election and install himself for a second term was obvious from his tweets, his public statements, and the actions of his motley crew of lawyers. But a trove of emails and other documents, released on Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, provide new insight into the intensity of Trump's efforts to stay in the Oval Office.
The new documents involve communications between the White House and the Department of Justice in the last few weeks of Trump's presidency. They suggest that Trump sacked Barr in mid-December in an effort to find a new Attorney General who would assist him in overturning the election result.
On December 14, Trump's personal assistant, Molly Michael, sent an email to then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with the subject line "From POTUS." Attached to the email was a document full of wild accusations about the vote in Michigan.
The "report" was prepared by Russell Ramsland Jr. "a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream." It argued, without valid evidence, that machines from Dominion Voting Systems were "intentionally and purposefully designed with errors to create systemic fraud." Ramsland previously told the Washington Post that he was in contact with Trump's lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, after the election.
The claims in the document are familiar to anyone who listened to Guiliani — or another Trump-aligned lawyer, Sidney Powell. But what's striking is what happened next. Two minutes after Trump's assistant sent the documents, "Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, through his assistant, sent the same documents to the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan."
Just 40 minutes later, "Trump tweeted that Attorney General Barr—who had said publicly that he had not seen widespread election fraud—would be stepping down, that Mr. Rosen would serve as Acting Attorney General, and that Mr. Donoghue would serve as Acting Deputy Attorney General."
Trump apparently viewed Rosen and Donoghue as potentially more open to assisting in his efforts to throw out the results of the election. Donoghue, in particular, seemed willing to play along.
But that was only the beginning.
The Supreme Court brief that was never filed
After dispensing with Barr, Trump attempted to convince the Department of Justice's new leadership to file an extraordinary brief with the United States Supreme Court.
On December 29, 2020, Michael emailed Donoghue and Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall. The message included a draft complaint to file in the Supreme Court and instructions of how to contact Trump to discuss.
The complaint was prepared by Kurt Olsen, a private attorney working with Trump. The same day Michael sent the email to Donoghue and Wall, Olsen contacted Rosen's Chief of Staff. Olsen said that Trump wanted him to meet with Rosen to discuss filing the complaint on behalf of the United States against Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
The lengthy complaint claimed the statistical odds of Biden beating Trump in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were "one in a quadrillion, or 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000." It repeated debunked conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines saying there were "grave questions" about their "vulnerability." As a remedy, it asked the Supreme Court "[d]eclare that the electoral college votes" in all five states were void and "[a]uthorize" a new "special election" to determine the winner.
The emails indicate that Olsen was able to talk to Rosen on December 29, 2020. Rosen asked Olsen for Supreme Court precedent backing up his argument. This request was a bad sign because the complaint itself should have contained all relevant precedent. The complaint was never filed.
But the emails reveal that Trump was absolutely serious about overturning the election results to stay in power. He was willing to do anything and everything possible to achieve this goal. Trump is no longer in the White House, but his quest to overturn the election results continues.
The coup continues
Trump has continued his quest to overturn the election from his properties in Florida and New Jersey. The facts and the law continue to be against him. But he presses forward anyway. Trump reportedly believes he will be "reinstated" as president sometime in August.
Recently, his focus has been on the recount of Maricopa County, Arizona. The recount, which is unofficial and cannot impact the results, is being run by Cyber Ninjas, an obscure firm with no experience in election audits. The CEO of Cyber Ninjas is Doug Logan, "who has a history of posting unsubstantiated claims of election fraud online." Logan deleted his Twitter account, @securityvoid, in January. But archives of the account preserved online shows that he trafficked in numerous conspiracy theories alleging the election was stolen from Trump.
The process has dragged on for months but is apparently nearing completion. Republican politicians from around the country, seeking to establish their MAGA bonafides, are making pilgrimages to Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix where the count is taking place.
Trump is pushing for similar recounts in other key states that Biden won, including Pennsylvania. He published the following statement to his website on June 4:
Great patriots led by State Senator Doug Mastriano, Senator Cris Dush, and State Representative Rob Kauffman went to Maricopa County, Arizona, to learn the best practices for conducting a full Forensic Audit of the 2020 General Election. Now the Pennsylvania Senate needs to act. Senate President Jake Corman needs to fulfill his promise to his constituents to conduct a full Forensic Audit. Senator Dave Argall, Chairman of the State Government Committee, has to authorize the subpoenas, if necessary. The people of Pennsylvania and America deserve to know the truth. If the Pennsylvania Senate leadership doesn’t act, there is no way they will ever get re-elected!
Republicans in states Trump won last November are now pushing for audits because "[f]ocusing on fraud claims allows Republican officials to raise money and attention from devoted Trump supporters."
None of this activity will put Trump back in the White House. But it has been effective in convincing millions of people to believe the lie that the election was stolen from Trump. As the world saw on January 6, that is very dangerous.
Despite his obsessive focus on undermining the democratic process, Trump remains a revered figure in the Republican Party. Key Republican leaders in Congress are validating Trump's conduct by continuing to embrace Trump and his message.
One particularly close ally of Trump in 2021 is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is chaired by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL). In April, Scott traveled to Florida to present Trump with an award on behalf of the NRSC. There have been no other winners of the award. It was made up for Trump.
In June, Trump appeared in a fundraising video on behalf of the NRSC. In the video Trump said, "we’re gonna take back the White House, and… sooner than you think." The message appears intended to bolster the conspiracy theory that Trump will be "reinstated" later this summer.
The NRSC, despite legitimizing and publicizing Trump's efforts to undermine the democratic process, has attracted significant corporate support. The corporate PACs of Walmart ($30,000), General Electric ($30,000), Pfizer ($15,000), T-Mobile ($15,000), GM ($15,000), Ford ($15,000), and Altria ($15,000) have all donated to the NRSC this year.