The House’s January 6 committee hearing on Thursday afternoon focused on what was then a “shameless attempt” by then-President Donald Trump to abuse the Justice Department for his own political gains.
The panel heard from three former officials directly affected by Trump’s pressure campaign: former Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and former top DOJ attorney Steve Engel, all of whom said they had repeatedly criticized Trump’s widespread voter fraud. The allegations were said to be untrue.
The three men went on to describe in astonishing detail the desperate efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse their 2020 election loss to Joe Biden in their plot to recruit the department — which would have replaced Rosen with Jeffrey. Clark, a less-qualified but loyal officer who was heading the department’s environment department.
Notably, Clark’s Virginia home was raided Wednesday by federal agents, as the Justice Department expanded its investigation into a plan to send fake voters to Congress and the National Archives.
President Benny Thompson, D-Miss., on Thursday portrayed Trump’s pressure campaign against the DOJ as well as his attacks on local election officials, then-Vice President Mike Pence and more as “essentially one’s inner workings.” did. Political coup.”
Thompson summarized in his closing statement, “He pressured the Justice Department to act as an arm of his re-election campaign.” “He expected law enforcement officers to give an impression of legitimacy to his lies, so when he told the nation the election had been stolen, he and his allies had some veneer of credibility.”
Here are some important excerpts from Thursday’s hearing:
Trump’s demands also include confiscation of voting machines
Rosen and Donoghue particularly highlighted an emergency meeting called by Trump on New Year’s Eve during which the president urged the department to seize voting machines from across the country.
Rosen said room officials didn’t tell him.
“There was no factual basis and no legal authority to do so,” Rosen testified.
It wasn’t just a request Trump made to the department before January 6. He also wanted the authorities to send a case to the Supreme Court in connection with the election fraud, appoint a special counsel to probe the alleged fraud and more, the witnesses said.
One theory promoted by Trump was that Italian satellites had diverted his votes to Biden, which Donoghue described as “pure madness”.
Rosen said the department rejected all of Trump’s demands because he “did not think they were justified based on the facts and the law as we understood them.”
White House meeting on tense January 3 ‘murder-suicide deal’
The second part of the hearing followed a crucial meeting at the White House on January 3, 2021, when Trump appointed Clark to head the Justice Department.
The committee displayed a White House call log that already referred to Clark as “acting attorney general,” suggesting that Trump was ready to hand Clark over to the Justice Department before the meeting.
“What do I have to lose?” Trump introduced at one point in the meeting. Donoghue replied that it was “in nobody’s interest.”
All three surviving witnesses described threatening to step down if Clark was appointed, citing a lack of qualifications to serve in such a high-level role.
“I said, Mr President, within 24, 48, 72 hours there could be hundreds and hundreds of resignations from the entire Justice Department leadership because of your actions, what is this going to say about you?” Engel said.
Engel said that at the time, White House counsel described the appointment of Clark as a “murder-suicide pact.”
Scott Perry emerges as key figure in DOJ pressure campaign
The committee outlined Thursday what it said was the role Representative Scott Perry, R-Penn., played in trying to elevate Clark to attorney general as other department officials criticized Trump’s election baseless claims. pushed back.
Perry was among a group of Republicans who met with Trump on December 21, 2020 to discuss how to continue to challenge Joe Biden’s victory and push claims of voter fraud.
The next day, Perry introduced Clark to Trump at a White House meeting. Clark met with the president without the knowledge of his superiors, in violation of DOJ rules.
Perry also wrote to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to help with Clark’s ascension. In a message displayed during the hearing, Perry wrote: “Mark, counting time as just check in continues. 11 days to 1/6th and 25 days to inauguration. We have to go.”
Perry’s office continued to defend his actions, with her spokeswoman telling ABC News Congressional correspondent Rachel Scott on Thursday that “there is nothing new here.”
Clark prepared to inform Georgia officials that the DOJ found fraud.
Clark was a key player in Trump’s attempt to get the Justice Department to falsely claim voter fraud in Georgia and other states.
A draft letter circulated by Clark called on Georgia’s governor and other top state officials to convene a special session of the state legislature to investigate claims of voter fraud — fraud former Attorney General Bill Barr had already deemed unworthy.
Donoghue said he and Rosen had “visceral reactions” to the draft document, adding that if it had been sent it could have led to a “constitutional crisis”.
Eric Hershman, a former White House attorney, recalled what he told Clark when he learned of his plans.
“When he finished discussing what he planned to do, I said ‘[expletive], Congratulations. You’ve just accepted that you’ll make your first move because the AG may be committing a crime,” Hershman said. “‘You’re clearly the right candidate for this job.'”
“The only thing I told Clark was that he knew that both environment and election start with “e” and I’m not even sure you know it,” he said.
Trump: ‘Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to us’
Attracted by the handwritten notes, Donoghue documented that Trump had told him, “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and R Congressmen.”
When Donoghue told Trump on December 27, 2020, by a phone call he could not change the outcome of the election, he recalled that Trump “responded very quickly – and said, ‘This is not what I want you to do. I’m just asking you to say it’s corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Donoghue recalled.
He also said Trump told him the Justice Department was “obligated to tell the people that this was an illegal, corrupt election,” despite officials repeatedly telling them that no widespread fraud exists and that Biden is legitimate. was the winner.
Representative Adam Kizinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, emphasized the seriousness of Trump’s request, saying, “The president wanted top Justice Department officials to declare that the election was corrupt, although, as he knew, Absolutely not. Evidence to support that statement.”
Congress’s GOP members demand ex-pardon
Former White House officials detailed in taped statements how several Republican members of Congress requested a “blanket pardon” in the final days of the Trump administration.
Among those listed by the authorities were Reps Perry, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Louis Gohart of Texas.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Meadows, said in her testimony that Getz had been apologizing “since early December.” ABC News previously reported on the ongoing DOJ investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving Getz.
Hutchinson also said that he “heard” that Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green had requested an apology from White House Counsel Pat Philbin, and that Ohio Representative Jim Jordan “talked about the pardon,” and White Asked for updates about the house. Congress was going to pardon members, but she didn’t directly ask for one for her information.
Former Trump White House aide John McEnty testified that at one point, the idea of a “blanket pardon” was floated to everyone involved on Jan.
One after another, Republican lawmakers denied the allegations.
In a statement to ABC News, Brooks rejected that the pardon was “ultimately unnecessary,” and Gaetz did not deny the claim, dismissing the committee as “political favor” in a tweet.
Jordan called his involvement “100% fake news” in a tweet, and Perry’s spokesperson called it “a strange and useless lie.” Green called it “gossip and lies” and the committee a “witch hunt”.