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Documents Show Trump Pressed DOJ Officials To Reverse Election Results

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Additional evidence shows just how hard ex-President Trump tried to overturn democracy after his election defeat last year. The House Oversight Committee released documents showing that Trump tried to involve law enforcement in his scheme. Carolyn Maloney is the committee chair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROLYN MALONEY: President Trump repeatedly pressured the Department of Justice to overturn the election he had lost.

INSKEEP: The defeated president pushed the Justice Department to engage in schemes that were so baseless that his own appointees refused. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is here. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What documents reveal and confirm what we just said?

GRISALES: Yes. It was quite a packet of documents, 232 pages of emails and others showing Trump and his allies pushing the Justice Department to look into various sham allegations of voter fraud. In one email uncovered by the House Oversight Committee, Trump asked justice official Jeffrey Rosen to probe certain claims just minutes before Trump announced Rosen would take over the top job as acting attorney general. And some of these were pretty out there. For example, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed justice officials to probe a conspiracy theory that voter fraud was caused by Italian satellites.

INSKEEP: Oh.

GRISALES: Yes.

INSKEEP: OK.

GRISALES: And Rosen shared one conspiracy theory with another DOJ official who called it, quote, "pure insanity." But we saw Trump's own appointees rejecting these claims. That said, all of this pressure, Democrats say, culminated in the January 6 attack.

INSKEEP: They just found no legal basis to join a lawsuit before the Supreme Court on this or take any other kinds of steps in order to try to effectively take over the government and end democracy.

GRISALES: Yeah.

INSKEEP: This House Oversight Committee was also hearing testimony on the insurrection, the attack on Congress January 6 as they were certifying the election. What did we learn there?

GRISALES: Yes. FBI Director Christopher Wray along with two Defense Department officials testified. They testified for the first time. This is General Charles Flynn and Lieutenant General Walter Piatt. They all defended their response that day. Now, we should note, Flynn is the brother of former embattled Trump adviser Michael Flynn. He and Piatt said military officials were delayed sending the National Guard because they needed time to develop a plan. Let's take a listen.

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WALTER PIATT: Now, when people's lives are on the line, two minutes is too long. But we were not positioned to respond to that urgent request. We had to reprepare so we would send them in prepared for this new mission.

GRISALES: So again, we hear Piatt there defending their role that day. Democrats also focused on what they said were contradictions in the testimony of how the day unfolded. And they say this fuels the call for an outside commission to probe of January 6. But that plan is currently stalled.

INSKEEP: OK. So many aspects here and so many revelations. We've heard about President Trump - ex-President Trump's effort to overturn his election defeat. We've heard about problems during the time of the insurrection. And then there are efforts to track violent extremists which continue now. What did you hear there?

GRISALES: Right. New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Wray to detail what contributed to the insurrection failures. And he admitted their hands are tied when it comes to tracking these threats on social media. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: I think what this shows is the challenge of getting sufficient information about what is out there on social media to be able to have the ability to distinguish between what we're calling sort of aspirational versus the intentional.

GRISALES: And so he said this could be one of the more important lessons learned out of the attack - that is, if policies could be changed to address social media tracking, that could help improve their efforts. But it's not something the FBI currently has the authority to do.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thank you very much.

GRISALES: Thanks much.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "TOTEM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.