The fifth hearing of the House Select Committee investigating Jan.6 focused Thursday on how then-President Trump tried to abuse the Justice Department to convince states and courts that there was widespread election fraud.
Led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Along with Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) And Vice President Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), The hearing featured testimony from senior officials from the Department of justice that detailed Trump’s exhaustive effort to get the department to embrace conspiracy theories on the Internet and explained how close the president came to installing at the top of his ranks an official whose main qualification was his loyalty to Trump.
Here are some key points from the audition:
The members of the GOP Congress asked for forgiveness
Several Republican members of Congress called for presidential pardon before Trump left office, moves that suggest elected officials who embraced and perpetuated the so-called Big Lie had at least some concern that their involvement could get them into legal trouble.
In a January 11 email obtained by the committee, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) Recommended “at the request of Matt Gaetz” that Trump “grant general (all-purpose) pardon” to “every congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral college voting proposals of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
“The general tone was, ‘We could be prosecuted because we were defensive, you know, the president’s positions on these things,'” former White House attorney Eric Herschmann told investigators in a taped deposition. “Forgive that [Gaetz] he was discussing the request was the broadest you can describe from the beginning of time to the present for anything.
In all, Trump White House officials told the committee that the list of congressmen requesting pardon included representatives. Brooks, Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) And Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also spoke of pardon, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. But Jordan never asked her to pardon for himself, Hutchinson told investigators.
“It was more for an update on whether the White House would pardon members of Congress,” he said.
Trump’s “friends in Congress”, as Kinzinger described them, asked for forgiveness because “they knew every part of what they did was a lie, and it was wrong.”
Suffice it to “say it was corrupt,” Trump told the Justice Department
Trump reached a point in his unsuccessful attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election where he didn’t care if the Justice Department was able to corroborate his campaign’s fraud claims. He just wanted the department to create enough doubt in the election to allow his GOP allies in Congress to do their part to keep him in office.
Trump requested a meeting with Justice Department leaders Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue on December 21. 15, 2020, after learning that Rosen would become interim attorney general with Donoghue as his interim deputy. Rosen testified that Trump called or met him “virtually every day, with one or two exceptions, such as Christmas Day,” between December 23, 2020, and January 3, 2021.
Testifying at Thursday’s hearing, Rosen and Donoghue said Trump became increasingly adamant that the Justice Department was not doing its job. They claimed to have repeatedly dismissed him from online conspiracy theories and requests to appoint a special advisor for election fraud, meet his electoral adviser, file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court, and send a letter to state legislatures claiming there was fraud in the elections.
When Donoghue informed the president that the Justice Department could not change the outcome of the election, he said Trump responded quickly.
“That’s not what I’m asking you to do,” said Trump, according to Donoghue, who took notes during the conversation. “What I’m just asking you to do is say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican deputies. … We have an obligation to tell the people that it was an illegal and corrupt election ”.
Of course, the elections were free and fair and Joe Biden won the constituency vote, along with the national popular vote of millions.
Trump came incredibly close to appointing an environmental attorney as interim attorney general, but a group of White House and Justice Department officials finally convinced him. After attorney, Jeffrey Clark, Rosen offered and accepted the president’s offer to serve as interim attorney general, Rosen requested a meeting with the president.
Rosen, Donoghue, Clark, assistant to Avv. General Steven Engel, Herschmann and two attorneys from the White House Attorney’s Office. Its purpose was to determine if there should be a leadership change in the department.
Clark told the room that he would conduct investigations that they would uncover widespread fraud if he hired the department and that he would send a letter he wrote stating that the Justice Department was “investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election” and has found “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of elections in multiple states”.
“Did I say it right, [expletive]. Congratulations, “Herschmann told investigators.” ‘You just admitted that your first step or act you take as Attorney General would commit a crime.… You are clearly the right candidate for this job.’ “
In fact, Department of Justice officials testified that Clark had no support within the Oval Office.
“I pointed out that Jeff Clark is not even competent to fill the role of Attorney General,” Donoghue told investigators. “He has never been a criminal lawyer. He has never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He has never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury. “
When Clark touted his experience with complicated appeals and civil and environmental litigation, Donoghue said, “Right. You are an environmental lawyer. How about we go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill. “
White House Advisor Pat Cipollone described the letter Clark wanted the Justice Department to send as a “murder-suicide pact” that would “harm everyone who touches it,” according to Donoghue’s recollection.
Herschmann called Clark’s proposal “crazy” and joked that “‘the only thing you know about environmental and electoral challenges is that they both start with E and, based on your answers tonight, I’m not even sure you do. know ‘”.
Justice Department officials told the president they would step down if Clark was chosen to lead the department, and said a wave of other department leaders would follow.
“Within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds upon hundreds of resignations from the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions,” Donoghue told the president. “What will he say about you?”
“Nobody will read this letter,” Engel recalled telling Trump. “All everyone will think is that you tried two attorneys general in two weeks until you found the environment guy to sign this thing. And so the story will not be that the Justice Department found massive corruption that would have changed the outcome of the election. It will be the Jeff Clark disaster. “
Donoghue interjected, noting that, “Steve [Engel] he pointed out that Jeff Clark would be left in charge of a cemetery and that comment clearly impacted the president: leadership would disappear; Jeff Clark would remain at the helm of a cemetery. “
Perry pushed Clark as attorney general
Perry, Greene, and other members of Congress met with Trump in the Oval Office on Dec. 21, 2020. The following day, according to White House visitor records, Perry took Clark to the White House. Perry later told a local news station that Trump had asked for an introduction to Clark, so he complied.
Two days later, Rosen began his first official day as interim attorney general. He recalled a “particular reference” during a Christmas Eve phone call with Trump that lasted about 15 or 20 minutes.
In that phone call, Trump continued to argue that the elections had been stolen and that there was widespread fraud. Trump said the Justice Department should do more and asked in passing if he knew Clark or who he was.
“I told him I did, and then the conversation went on,” Rosen said. “But when I hung up, I was doubtful how does the president know Mr. Clark? I did not know that they had ever met or that the president had been involved in any of the issues of the civil division. “
Clark was acting head of the Civil Division and head of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division at the Justice Department, neither of whom had any role in the election fraud investigation.
In a deposition, Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani told investigators, “I remember telling people that someone should be in charge of the Justice Department who is not afraid of what will be done to their reputation, because justice it was filled with people like that ”.
Hutchinson, Meadows’ assistant, told investigators that Perry “wanted Mr. Clark, Mr. Jeff Clark, to take over the Justice Department.”
In December On December 26, 2020, Clark “apologized” and “contrite” in a meeting with Rosen and Donoghue, telling them he would let them know if anyone asked him to attend another such meeting.
That same day, however, Perry was pushing Meadows in text messages to elevate Clark to the Department of Justice.
Donoghue warned that Clark’s draft memorandum “could have huge constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country,” and told Clark. “What you are doing is none other than the United States Department of Justice interfering with the outcome of a presidential election.”
In what has been described as a “controversial” meeting between Clark and the department’s two top officials, Clark has continued to push his positions, including calling witnesses and conducting an investigation on his own.
Towards the end of a meeting with Trump, the president said people told him he should “get rid of” Rosen and Donoghue and promote Clark.
“Maybe something will finally be done,” said Trump, according to Donoghue, who said he replied this way: “Mr. President, you should have the leadership you want. But you understand the functions of the US Department of Justice on facts. , trials and laws, and they won’t change. So you can have any leadership you want, but the position of the department won’t change. “