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DOJ tells former Trump officials they can testify about efforts to overturn election

Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general after William Barr stepped down, is among the officials being allowed to testify.
Image: Jeffrey Rosen
Jeffrey Rosen speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, on Oct. 21, 2020.Yuri Gripas / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The Department of Justice has told several former Trump administration officials that they can answer questions from Congress about efforts by President Donald Trump or DOJ officials to challenge, stop the counting or overturn the results of the presidential election.

The letters are being sent to former officials who were asked to testify or answer further questions from the House Oversight and Senate Judiciary committees, according to Justice Department and congressional officials.

The Senate committee, for example, has notified witnesses that it is looking into reports of “an alleged plot between then-President Donald Trump and then-acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Bossert Clark to use the Department of Justice to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.”

The Justice Department is informing the former officials that while it typically resists such congressional inquiries and even asserts executive privilege, this one is different, according to one of the letters sent to Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general after William Barr stepped down in late December.

“The extraordinary events in this matter constitute exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress in this case,” the letter to Rosen said. It added that the White House agrees, and that “President Biden has decided that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege” on this issue.

Similar letters from the Justice Department were sent to Richard Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general after Barr stepped down, and at least four other department officials, including Clark, Patrick Hovakimian, who was Rosen's chief of staff, and former U.S. attorneys Byung Jin Pak and Bobby Christine.

Former officials have said Hovakimian tried to block efforts to remove Rosen for not launching investigations based on Trump's claims of election fraud. Pak was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta who resigned after Trump condemned authorities in Georgia for not investigating his election fraud claims. Christine was U.S. attorney in southern Georgia and was named by Trump to replace Pak in an acting capacity after he resigned.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., welcomed the department's approval letters.

“The Committee has been pushing DOJ for this waiver for months. Now that we have it, we’ll proceed to interview relevant witnesses ASAP so we can get to the bottom of this plot to enlist DOJ in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” he said in a tweet.

The chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the letters will help speed up the committee’s work.

“I expect prompt cooperation from these witnesses, and I am committed to getting to the bottom of the previous administration’s attempts to subvert the Justice Department and reverse a free and fair election,” she said.

The letter was sent by Bradley Weinsheimer, a senior career Justice Department official who was elevated to his position by Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump's first attorney general.

Many of these former officials were earlier given approval to testify about the Justice Department’s planning for and response to the Capitol riot. “That authorization remains in effect,” the letter said.