Richard P. Donoghue, who served as acting deputy attorney general in the Trump administration, was a crucial witness to President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to use the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election results, and one of several officials there who pumped the brakes on the plan.
Mr. Donoghue repeatedly pushed back on Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona, and he refused to go along when Mr. Trump insisted that the department simply “say that the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me,” according to notes Mr. Donoghue took of a Dec. 27, 2020, call with Mr. Trump and Jeffrey A. Rosen, the acting attorney general.
On Thursday, Mr. Donoghue was appearing in person before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in a hearing at which aides said the panel would reveal new evidence of Mr. Trump’s bid to use the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to invalidate his defeat and stay in power.
Much is already known about Mr. Trump’s efforts and the resistance by Mr. Donoghue and his colleagues, including that the president asked the Justice Department to send letters to state election officials warning them that there had been widespread fraud in the election and to file lawsuits to help his campaign.
During a hearing on Tuesday, the House committee played audio of an interview with Mr. Donoghue in which he recounted telling Mr. Trump that there was no suitcase containing fraudulent ballots in Georgia, a popular conspiracy theory that was based on a video selectively edited and shared by Mr. Trump’s allies.
Mr. Trump “kept fixating on this suitcase that supposedly had fraudulent ballots,” Mr. Donoghue said in the interview. “I said, ‘No, sir, there is no suitcase.’”
Mr. Trump, in his final weeks in office, had also planned to oust Mr. Rosen, when it was clear that he did not have his support to send Georgia state legislators a letter wrongly stating that the department was seriously investigating accusations of voter fraud.
Mr. Donoghue convened the department’s senior leaders over the phone, making a plan that the group would resign en masse should Mr. Rosen be fired.
Mr. Trump ultimately allowed Mr. Rosen to stay.