The pattern became so extraordinary that at one point the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, sent a YouTube video to department officials from Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, that claimed an Italian defense contractor uploaded software to a satellite that switched votes from Mr. Trump.
A top Defense Department official, Kashyap Patel, followed up with Mr. Donoghue about the claim, and the acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, reached out to a defense attaché in Italy to discuss the claim, which was never substantiated.
About 90 minutes after Mr. Donoghue had helped persuade Mr. Trump not to install Mr. Clark as acting attorney general, Mr. Trump would still not let go, calling Mr. Donoghue on his cellphone with another request: to look into a report that an immigration and customs agent in Georgia had seized a truck full of shredded ballots. There turned out to be nothing to it, Mr. Donoghue testified.
Trump considered naming a loyalist lawyer as a special counsel.
As Mr. Trump searched for any way to substantiate the false fraud claims, he tried to install a loyalist as a special counsel to investigate them. One of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, Sidney Powell — who had become a public face of Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the election — said in testimony played by the committee that Mr. Trump discussed with her the possibility of taking on that position in December.
The committee also played testimony of William P. Barr, who was attorney general until the middle of December 2020, saying that there was no basis to appoint a special counsel. And the committee suggested that the idea was part of the larger effort to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mr. Biden’s victory and open the door to Congress considering alternate slates of Trump electors from swing states.
“So let’s think here, what would a special counsel do?” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, who led the day’s questioning. “With only days to go until election certification, it wasn’t to investigate anything. An investigation, led by a special counsel, would just create an illusion of legitimacy and provide fake cover for those who would want to object, including those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.”