The documents reveal Trump and his allies' increasingly desperate efforts between December and early January to push bogus conspiracy theories and cling to power – and the struggle of bewildered justice department officials to resist them.
"These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation's chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost," said Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House of Representatives' oversight committee, which released the emails on Tuesday.
At least five times, the documents show, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, instructed justice department officials to investigate false allegations of voter fraud, including a conspiracy theory called "Italygate", which claims electoral data was changed from Europe by means including military satellites and with the knowledge of the CIA.
On 1 January Meadows, a fierce Trump loyalist, sent Jeffrey Rosen, then acting attorney general, a link to a YouTube video detailing the "Italygate" theory. Rosen forwarded the email to the then acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, who replied: "Pure insanity."
The documents also show that Trump pressured Rosen to make the justice department take up election fraud claims.
But Rosen refused to arrange a meeting between officials and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has played a leading role in pushing the conspiracy theories. Meadows asked Rosen to help arrange a meeting with Giuliani, the emails show.
Rosen wrote to a justice department colleague on 1 January: "I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his "witnesses', and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this."
Meadows also sent an email to Rosen about alleged irregularities in Fulton county, Georgia, a state Joe Biden won narrowly. Rosen again forwarded the email to Donoghue and asked: "Can you believe this? I am not going to respond to the message below."