The White House circulated a YouTube video claiming MI6 supported a scheme to use an Italian satellite to switch votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, it was alleged on Thursday.
The video was allegedly circulated by White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to senior officials in the Justice Department, the congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection was told.
It was just one of the bizarre conspiracy theories flying around Washington as Mr Trump refused to accept he had lost the presidential election.
The theory that Italian contractors had uploaded software to switch votes was dismissed as “completely baseless” by Republican committee member, Adam Kinzinger.
According to the speaker in the 20-minute video, the “mastermind” of the operation was running the operation “in conjunction with some support from MI6, the CIA and the Leonardo Group [an Italian defence corporation]”.
Richard Donoghue, who served as the Trump administration’s deputy attorney general in the final days of his presidency, and one of the recipients of the video, described it as “pure insanity” and “patently absurd”.
Nevertheless, he came under pressure from the White House to investigate the claim as did acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller who contacted a US attaché in Rome for more information.
Mr Donoghue told the hearing how the Department of Justice came under intense pressure to challenge Joe Biden’s victory.
The US president told him: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest up to me and Republican congressmen.”
Wednesday’s hearing was the latest in a series of televised sessions by the Democrat-dominated committee, which has been dismissed as a “kangaroo court” by Mr Trump and his Republican allies.
Previous sessions have focused on the violence which engulfed the heart of the US government as rioters stormed the Capitol, the pressure put on Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify Mr Biden’s victory, and the threats and harassment faced by ordinary poll workers.
The latest hearing focused on how Mr Trump tried to dragoon the Department of Justice into reversing the result, claiming the election had been rigged.
“It was a brazen attempt by the president to use the Justice Department for his political purposes,” said Bennie Thompson the committee chairman.
At the heart of the legal onslaught was an environmental lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, who was brought into the department.
At one point Mr Clark helped draft a letter to Georgia governor Brian Kemp, advising him to call a special session of the state’s legislature to draft an alternative slate of pro-Trump electors.
Mr Trump was keen to appoint Mr Clark, whose home was raided by federal investigators on Wednesday, as attorney general, believing he would aid his attempt to overturn the election.
The president was forced to back off after Jeff Rosen, the acting attorney general, warned that this would lead to mass resignations at the Justice Department.