Democracy Has Prevailed.

July 31, 2021

A Deep Dive Into Those Trump/DOJ Phone Notes (A Pennsylvania Connection)

We'll start with this reporting from the NY Times:

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 he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.

The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.

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 Justice Department had found no evidence for. 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.

This is the framing for the (by now famous) takeaway from the notes:

“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.

The Washington Post had a similar take:

President Donald Trump pressed senior Justice Department officials in late 2020 to “just say the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me” and Republican lawmakers, according to stunning handwritten notes that illustrate how far the president was willing to go to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.
In place of looking at the "leave the rest to me" part, I'd like to focus on the other part of that phrase. Those The Times refers to as "congressional allies" and the Post as "Republican lawmakers."

What do the notes say?

We'll start with the DOJ's position (p. 4 of the notes):


but understand that the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn't work that way

Trump answers (p. 4-5 of the notes):


P: "Don't expect you do do that, just say the election was was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."

Who are "the R. Congressmen" mentioned in the notes?

Well, for the sake of this conversation, it's Scott Perry (PA-10). But he's not the only Pennsylvania politician mentioned in the notes (p. 1 of the notes):


DAG Call - on w/ POTUS + wants to conference me in

P - Country is up in arms over the corruption

Scott Perry (PA) + Senator from PA - Guy Mastriano - some of the (many?) calling

(Since the reference is to a "Senator from PA" it's easy to assume Trump meant State Senator Doug Mastriano rather than Pennsylvania Representative Guy Reschenthaler.)

And this is what Trump was pushing onto the DOJ (p. 1 of the notes):

205K votes - more than they have voters - PA

This was December 27, 2020. On the very next day, December 28, 2020, Pennsylvania State Representative Russ Diamond issued a statement asserting that little bit if misinformation.

A statement easily debunked by December 29, 2020. 

Also on December 28 2020, State Senator Doug Mastriano sent his 5 page letter to Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

WTIF had some interesting things to say about that letter. For example:

Many of the roughly 18 claims in the five-page letter had already been proven wrong by then, or were debunked after Mastriano wrote the letter.

For example, the letter cites a discrepancy between the number of votes counted and the number of people who voted. By the next day, the claim had been debunked: the Department of State said the group had relied on incomplete data from the state’s voter database.


The emails also show Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) was also in the mix. He shared a slideshow outlining the misleading voter database claim with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R, PA-10) a week before he released it to the public on Dec. 28. Perry then forwarded the slideshow to Justice Department lawyers, referencing a previous discussion he had with Donoghue.

Keep the date in mind as well as the fact that Ryan passed the "205K more votes than voters" to Perry a week before it's mentioned by Trump on that phone call.  

Then there's this (p. 6 of the notes):


- People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. 
- People want me to replace DOJ leadership

What's the context on this? Take a look at this from the NYTimes:

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.


As Mr. Rosen and the deputy attorney general, Richard P. Donoghue, pushed back, they were unaware that Mr. Clark had been introduced to Mr. Trump by a Pennsylvania politician and had told the president that he agreed that fraud had affected the election results.

A Pennsylvania politician? How interesting. Which Pennsylvania politician could that be?

The NY Times has the answer:

When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. Trump’s orbit.

But Mr. Perry, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse.

It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them.

Could that be the same Scott Perry listed who is on the first page of those DOJ notes?

Why, yes. Yes it is. His name is right there right after Trump says this:

Don't expect you do do that, just say the election was was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.

Congressman Perry, exactly what role did you play in pushing the big lie?  Are you the WH source for the 205K more votes than voters lie that Trump tried to push into the DOJ?

And State Senator Mastriano, your state legislative district butts right up against Perry's Congressional District, right?

Since you're listed in the notes like some sort of assistant to Perry, and considering your presence at the Capitol on January 6, your payment for the MAGA-filled buses, we already know you're (at the very least) treason-adjacent, what's your place in all this?