House investigators this week interviewed Patrick Hovakimian, a Justice Department official who penned a resignation letter in the final days of the Trump administration when he feared the president would sack the deputy attorney general.
Hovakimian, who served as acting chief of staff to acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, was prepared to bolt after Trump sought to enlist Rosen, a career official, in his election overturn efforts.
Rosen had taken the reins after the sudden resignation of Attorney General Bill Barr in the last weeks of the Trump administration, after he said publicly he didn’t see evidence of fraud sufficient to affect the outcome of the election.
The maneuvering all went down in the final days of the Trump administration, as Trump and his allies furiously sought to challenge results in states that went to Joe Biden, with Trump trying to get DOJ officials to assist in his efforts.
House investigators interviewed Patrick Hovakimian, a Justice Department official who penned a resignation letter expecting Trump would fire acting AG Jeffrey Rosen
Trump had asked Acting AG Jeffrey Rosen to assist his election overturn efforts days after he took over leadership of the agency, according to notes from a top DOJ official
In one example that emerged last week, Trump told Rosen and a top official: ‘Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.’ His push was memorialized in notes by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue of a December 27, 2020 phone call that also included Rosen.
According to his draft resignation letter, reported by CNN, Hovakimian wrote: ‘This evening, after Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the President’s direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice’s law enforcement powers for improper ends, the President removed Jeff from the Department.’
Trump did not in fact remove Rosen. He addressed the unsent letter to top DOJ officials.
The draft letter was among letters provided to House and Senate committees, according to the network, which reported Hovakimian was interviewed for three hours Wednesday.
Acting head of the DOJ’s civil division Jeffrey Clark was touted in December for higher things by then President Trump, just before he urged colleagues to write to Georgia lawmakers recommending they investigate the results of the 2020 election in their state
‘We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election,’ according to notes on Trump call with DOJ officials in December last year
He was in some ways taking a cue from Rosen and Donoghue, who also took pains to make note that they were not abetting Trump’s overturn effort.
Donoghue’s notes, released by House Oversight, say they told Trump: ‘Understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.’
That prompted Trump to say ‘Don’t expect you to do that,’ and to just ‘say’ the election was corrupt.
‘Told him flat out that much of the info he is getting is false, +/or just not supported by the evidence – we look at allegations but they do not pan out,’ the notes also said.
In yet another development, senior DOJ officials turned back a colleague’s request that they ask lawmakers in Georgia to investigate Trump’s fraud claims there.
The head of DOJ’s civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulated an extraordinary letter Dec. 28th pushing Georgia lawmakers to convene a special session, and even cast doubt on the election outcome there.
‘In light of these developments, the Department recommends that the Georgia General Assembly should convene in special session so that its legislators are in a position to take addition testimony, receive new evidence, and deliberate on the matter consistent with its duties under the constitution,’ he wrote in the draft.
‘Time is of the essence,’ the letter says, noting Congress was due to meet to count the electoral votes on Jan. 6 – the day that would ultimately include the Capitol riot.
Donoghue’s notes suggest Trump was contemplating elevating Clark with just days left in office.
‘People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership,’ Trump said in his call with Rosen, according to Donoghue’s notes.