Former senior Justice Department official Richard Donoghue says he has been interviewed by special counsel Jack Smith’s office, but has not been called to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Jan. 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Donoghue, who confirmed the meeting with Smith's office to NBC News on Monday, served as acting deputy attorney general near the end of the Trump administration. He later testified before the House Jan. 6 committee that investigated the Capitol riot.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment to NBC News.
In his testimony to the House panel last year, Donoghue said that weeks before the attack on the Capitol, Trump had urged Justice Department officials, including then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, to "just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
Donoghue and Rosen told the Jan. 6 committee that they repeatedly rebuffed Trump's efforts, and that he later threatened to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, an ally who had drafted a letter casting doubt over the 2020 election results and urging states to certify slates of fake electors.
Jan. 6 committee's chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called Trump's efforts, as described by Donoghue at the time, as "a brazen attempt to use the Justice Department to advance the president’s personal political agenda."
Donoghue also provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in August 2021, and was asked about a video circulated after the 2020 election by then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that alleged intelligence agencies had used Italian military satellites to change votes in the election.
“Some of them were pretty farfetched, as this one was,” Donoghue said, according to a transcript of the interview. “And when I looked at the video, I think it was about a 20-minute YouTube video or something like that, it struck me as being fairly off the wall, in part because it was very conclusory and it did not really offer evidence.”
The former president and his allies have repeatedly accused the Biden administration of weaponizing the Justice Department amid Trump's legal woes, which have resulted so far in two indictments: one from a New York City grand jury centering on hush money payments he allegedly made during his 2016 campaign and the other a federal case stemming from his handling of classified documents after he left the White House.
Trump said last week that he had received a letter from Smith informing him he is a target of an investigation by a federal grand jury looking into the Jan. 6 riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.