In a moment of foreshadowing, Mr. Trump said, “people tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in,” referring to the acting chief of the Justice Department’s civil division, who had also encouraged department officials to intervene in the election. “People want me to replace D.O.J. leadership.”
“You should have the leadership you want,” Mr. Donoghue replied. But it would not change the department’s position on a lack of widespread election fraud, he noted.
Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Rosen did not know that Mr. Perry had introduced Mr. Clark to Mr. Trump. One week later, they would be forced to fight Mr. Clark for their jobs in an Oval Office showdown.
During the call, Mr. Trump also told the Justice Department officials to “figure out what to do” with Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s son. “People will criticize the D.O.J. if he’s not investigated for real,” he told them, violating longstanding guidelines against White House intervention in criminal investigations or other law enforcement actions.
Two days after the phone call with Mr. Trump, Mr. Donoghue took notes of a meeting with Justice Department officials that also included Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows; the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone; and the White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin. They met to discuss a conspiracy theory known as Italygate, which asserts without evidence that people in Italy used military technology to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States.
The Justice Department officials told the White House that they had assigned someone to look into the matter, according to the notes and a person briefed on the meeting. They did not mention that the department was looking into the theory to debunk it, the person said.
While the Justice Department officials kept the pressure campaign hidden from public view, the emails obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials show they were alarmed by Mr. Trump’s behavior, particularly when he complained about the U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung J. Pak, whom he viewed as not doing enough to examine voter fraud accusations there.