WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has chastised the Justice Department for pushing his false election fraud claims, in vain efforts to enlist top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power and a dramatic Hosted the Oval Office showdown in which he weighed replacing the agency’s leader with a more obedient lower-level official, according to testimony on Thursday by the House panel investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
Three Trump-era Justice Department officials reiterated a relentless pressure campaign from the president, including on days of instructions to pursue unsupported allegations that the election won by Democrat Joe Biden had been stolen. Officials described Constant Contact as a breach of protocol for a department that cherishes its independence from the White House, but said they turned down each demand because there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“For the department to involve itself in the political process in this way, I think there will be dire consequences for the country that could land us in a constitutional crisis,” said Richard Donoghue, acting No. 2 officer in the final. Trump administration days.
The president, he said, had an “arsenal of charges”. I went to them piece by piece to say, no, they were not true. ,
Another witness, Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general, said he had been called by Trump or had originally met him every day from the time he ascended office in late December 2020 to early January 2021, with the general The theme was “discontent”. What the Justice Department did to investigate electoral fraud.
Benny Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and co-chair of the January 6 committee, said it all added up to a “shameless attempt” to use the Justice Department to his political advantage.
“Donald Trump didn’t want the Justice Department to investigate,” Thompson said. “He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies, basically calling the election corrupt” and to appoint a special counsel. The Justice Department opposed each demand.
As in previous hearings, the committee focused on lawmakers who had aligned themselves with Trump’s efforts. On Thursday, the panel ran recorded interviews of Trump aides saying several Republican members of Congress requested pardons in the days following the violent rioting at the Capitol.
Testimony also focused on the tense Oval Office performance on January 3, 2021, with Trump considering replacing Rosen with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump’s claims of bogus election fraud. Donoghue and another senior Justice Department official, Steven Engel, warned Trump that there would be massive resignations at the department if Trump followed through with his plan. Only then did Trump soften.
Clark’s name was referenced at the start of the hearing, in which Representative Adam Kizinger, an Illinois Republican, ridiculed her as a lawyer whose only qualification was her allegiance to Trump. Clark’s attorney did not return an email before the hearing.
“Who is Jeff Clarke?” Kinzinger asked rhetorically. “He would do what the president wanted him to do, including overthrowing a free and fair democratic election.”
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.
The panel’s hearing was the fifth this month by a House committee investigating the rebellion at the Capitol after Trump loyalists stormed the building as legislators were attesting to the results of the election won by 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 dismissed Trump’s claims of fraud and resigned after failing to persuade the president.
Thursday’s hearing focused on what happened next as Barr’s top deputy, Rosen, took over the department and quickly surrounded himself with Trump’s demands for action.
In a phone conversation, according to handwritten notes taken by Donoghue and highlighted by Thursday’s hearing, Trump instructed Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and R. Congressmen.”
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.'”