On Friday, The New York Times claimed it had obtained the handwritten notes from a post-election meeting between then-President Donald Trump and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. Those notes, according to the Times, reveal that when Donoghue “warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election,” Trump “replied that he did not expect that.” “‘Just say that the election was corrupt + leave he rest to me’ and to congressional allies,” the Times reported Donoghue’s handwritten notes as stating.
However, a review of the notes from that December 27, 2020 meeting, provided by the Biden administration to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and posted on the latter’s webpage, expose the Times as once again a purveyor of fake news.
While the Times claimed the above exchange occurred during a phone call in which Trump “pressed” Rosen and Donoghue “on voter fraud claims that the department had disproved,” the “just say that the election was corrupt” comment came in an entirely different portion of the discussion, the handwritten notes establish.
That comment followed Donoghue’s assurance that the department would “look at whether there were more ballots in PA than registered voters.” Donoghue’s commitment to investigate this potential fraud came in response to Trump’s earlier assertion that Pennsylvania had only 5 million voters in the state, but there were 5.25 million votes casts.
“Clearly fraud,” the handwritten notes show Trump saying to the two top DOJ officials, while Donoghue added his own commentary, of “possibly true?” in a parenthetical.
Then, after telling Trump the DOJ would look at whether there were more ballots cast in Pennsylvania than registered voters, Donoghue noted they “should be able to check on that quickly but understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.”
It was in response to that statement that Trump said “[I] don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”
This context changes everything. Trump didn’t tell his acting attorney general and deputy AG to ignore the department’s conclusion that there was no fraud and to instead announce to Americans that the election was corrupt, leaving it to him and his “congressional allies” to overturn the results of the election. Rather, Trump wanted the DOJ to make that announcement following confirmation that more ballots were cast in Pennsylvania then there were registered voters.
While there weren’t more ballots cast in Pennsylvania than there were voters, had the DOJ established such fraud had occurred, there would be nothing untoward with officials announcing those findings and that the state’s election was corrupt. That scenario, which the handwritten notes show was being discussed, is entirely different from the situation The New York Times and other corporate media outlets represented. Here’s the Times’ headline.
The lead paragraphs then continue with the fiction:
President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so that he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers and obtained by The New York Times.
The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the department had disproved. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.
‘Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me’ and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.
Contrary to what the handwritten notes actually show, the New York Times conveyed to its readers that Trump told DOJ officials to ignore their findings of “no instances of widespread fraud,” and instead “just say that the election was corrupt,” then leave overturning the election to the president and his congressional allies.
The Times’ deceitful portrayal of the content of the handwritten notes also was no accident, as a later passage in the article authored by Katie Benner shows.
“At another point, Mr. Donoghue said that the department could quickly verify or disprove the assertion that more ballots were cast in Pennsylvania than there are voters,” Benner wrote, adding that the handwritten notes continued: “Should be able to check on that quickly, but understand that the D.O.J. can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.”
But it wasn’t “at another point” that that exchange occurred. It was at that same point Trump made what the Times portrayed as the damning comment: “‘Just say that the election was corrupt + leave he rest to me’ and to congressional allies.”
The narrative has been set, however, and now a large chunk of the country will wrongly believe that, after losing the election, Trump insisted the Department of Justice lie to the American public that the election was corrupt so he and Republican allies could steal the election.
Yet an equally large contingency will know the reality of the conversation—and where the real corruptness lies: leftist corporate media.
Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.
The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.