1/6 panel to hear Trump pressure on Justice Department – The Mercury News

by Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON (AP) — The January 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who pressed a bizarre challenge from within their own ranks while facing a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the 2020 presidential election results.

Thursday’s hearing will draw attention to a memorable turbulent vibe in the department as Trump in his final days in office sought to divert his will to the law enforcement agency, which has long nurtured its independence from the White House. The testimony is intended to show how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to suppress his false claims of electoral fraud, but also sought to take advantage of the powers of federal executive branch agencies.

Witnesses will include Jeffrey Rosen, who was the acting attorney general during the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump considered replacing him with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump’s claims of bogus election fraud.

Barely an hour before the trial began, it was learned that federal agents searched Clark’s Virginia home this week, according to a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and requested anonymity. Spoke on condition. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney confirmed the existence of law enforcement activity in Virginia, where Clark lives, but would not say what it was linked to.

In a written statement prepared for the committee and obtained by the Associated Press, Rosen says the Justice Department was not provided any evidence of fraud that could have affected the outcome of the election and therefore did not participate in any of the Trump campaign campaigns. took. The result, instead of emphasizing the orderly transfer of power.

“Some argued with the former president and the public that the election was corrupt and stolen,” Rosen’s statement said. “That view was wrong then and is wrong today, and I hope our presence here today will help confirm that fact.”

Two other former department officials, Rosen’s top deputy, Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, are also due to testify. The two warned Trump at a White House meeting that he would resign and that many lawyers in the department would follow suit if he replaced Rosen with Clark.

“You can have a situation here, within 24 hours, you have hundreds of people resigning from the Justice Department,” Donoghue told Trump. “Is it good for anyone? Is it good for the department? Is it good for the country? Is it good for you. This.”

Only then did Trump soften. The night, and later his Republican administration, ended with Rosen remaining in power.

Hours before the hearing, lawmakers interviewed British filmmaker Alex Holder privately, his lawyer Russell Smith confirmed to the AP. Holder said Tuesday that he had submitted footage of Trump’s last six weeks in office, including Jan. 6, to the committee. He said the footage includes interviews with Trump, his family and then-Vice President Mike Pence during 2020 and leading up to the deadly rebellion.

The panel’s hearing is the fifth this month by a House committee investigating the rebellion at the Capitol after Trump loyalists stormed the building as lawmakers were attesting to the results of an election won by Democrat Joe Biden. Witnesses include police officers attacking the Capitol as well as lawyers, a television executive and local election officials who resisted demands to change the results in Trump’s favor.

The committee last week presented videotaped statements from former Attorney General William Barr, who called Trump’s fraud claims “bull-,” “fake” and “silly” and resigned after failing to convince the president .

Thursday’s hearing will focus on what happened next as the bar’s top deputy, Rosen, took over the department and quickly surrounded himself with Trump’s demands for Justice Department action.

In a phone conversation, according to handwritten notes taken by Donoghue and made public by lawmakers last year, Trump instructed Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and R. Congressmen.”

Around that time, Trump was introduced to Clark by a Republican congressman, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who joined the department in 2018 as its chief environmental counsel and was later appointed to run its civic division. Had gone. Clarke was earlier summoned by the committee to give a statement, but he will not be among the witnesses on Thursday.

According to statements from other Justice Department officials, Clark met with Trump despite not being ordered by bosses in the department and presented himself as eager to aid the president’s efforts to challenge the election results. . A report released last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee that portrayed Clark as a tireless advocate of Trump included a draft letter calling for Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session to reconsider the election results.

Clark wanted the letter to be sent, but Justice Department seniors refused.

The situation became critical on Sunday, January 3, 2021, when Clark informed Rosen in a private meeting at the Justice Department that Trump intended to replace her with Clark as acting attorney general. According to the Senate report, Rosen responded that “there was no universe I could imagine in which this would ever happen” and that he would not accept being fired by a subordinate.

Rosen then contacted the White House to request a meeting. That night, Rosen, Donoghue and Engel, along with Clark, gathered for a controversial, hours-long Oval Office meeting with top White House lawyers about whether the president should be considered for a radical leadership change in the department. You should follow your plans.

According to testimony given by Rosen, Trump began the meeting by saying, “One thing we do know is that you, Rosen, are not going to do anything to reverse the election.”

Donoghue and Engel made it clear to Trump that they and other Justice Department officials would resign in large numbers if Trump fired Rosen. White House lawyers said the same thing. Then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone said the letter Clarke intended to send was a “murder-suicide pact.”

“Steve Engel said at one point, ‘Jeff Clarke would lead a cemetery. And what are you going to do with a cemetery,’ that would be such an exodus of leadership,” Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “So it was told very strongly to the president that this would happen.”

Donoghue also sought to restrain Trump from assuming that Clark had the legal background the president wanted because he was not a criminal prosecutor in the department.

“And he responded by saying, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation, and things like that,'” Donoghue said. “And I said, ‘That’s right. You’re the environmental lawyer. How can you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.'”

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Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.

For full coverage of the January 6 hearing, visit

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