Former officials working in the Trump-era Justice Department painted a dire and damning picture of the agency in the weeks following the 2020 election: a former president wanting to install an attorney general, who will advance his unfounded claims of voter fraud and a mass resignation uprising if Trump passes the decision.
During Thursday’s hearing, the House committee investigating the January 6 attacks on Thursday shared some of their most explosive findings. Lawmakers have been scrutinizing efforts in the White House as well as in Congress to convince the Justice Department to step in, although the highest-ranking DOJ officials have denied evidence of widespread fraud. Most notably, the panel shared taped testimony describing half a dozen GOP members and Trump allies seeking a presidential pardon.
The Attorney General serves in the President’s Cabinet, but the Justice Department is expected to operate independently of the administration. During his time in office, Trump has frequently faced accusations of a politicized DOJ. The committee sought to quell those criticisms as witnesses shared how Trump wanted them to use their legal powers to intervene and how they prevented the former president from using the DOJ as a political arm of the House. White.
They recount the meeting in the Oval Office three days before the January 6 riots, where the former president famously fired then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replaced him with another DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark. The idea has been met with fury from top aides at the department, who have threatened to resign if Trump acts this way.
“Jeff Clark will be left to lead a cemetery,” Richard Donoghue, a former deputy attorney general, testified before the selection committee. He described Clark as “completely incompetent,” and Donoghue told Trump he would resign immediately if Clark took over, as did most top employees.
Clark was the focus of Thursday’s hearing and an integral part of the panel’s investigation. Hours before, NBC News reported that federal law enforcement searched Clark’s home in Virginia on Wednesday. Committee members and witnesses described him as an environmental lawyer with no experience in investigating crimes or adjudicating a criminal case.
The committee also highlighted a letter drafted by Clark from December 28, 2020, stating there was “substantial concern” about fraud and calling on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other GOP state legislators to convene a special session to invalidate the result. shows that President Joe Biden narrowly won.
“Who is Jeff Clark? An environmental attorney has no relevant experience leading the entire Justice Department,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans on the panel. “What is his only degree? That he will do whatever the president wants him to do, including subvert a free and fair democratic election.”
Rosen took over the Justice Department on an action basis after Attorney General Bill Barr resigned from the administration in December 2020. Barr has been a prominent witness to investigators and his taped testimony. was played in every hearing.
Barr dismissed widespread claims of voter fraud a month after the election. And in the interview with the committee on January 6, he said that Trump’s baseless fraud story led to his resignation. Barr described his former boss as becoming “decoupled from reality if he really believed these things” and called the claims “bulls”.
Rosen said he talks to or meets with Trump almost every day from December 23, 2020 to January 3, 2021. He said the former president has made several requests, including the ability to appoint a special counsel to investigate voter fraud, a meeting between Rosen and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and the filing department with the Supreme Court. All were dismissed by Rosen.
“The common element of all of this was that the president expressed displeasure that the Justice Department… was not doing enough to investigate election fraud,” Rosen testified on Thursday. “The Department of Justice has denied all of those requests because we don’t think they’re appropriate based on the facts and the law as we understand them.”
Donoghue said he has faced similar requests from the former president. He detailed a two-hour call with Trump on December 27, 2020, calling it an “escalation” of previous conversations about allegations of fraud.
“I want to try to cut through the noise,” said Donoghue, adding that he is being “very blunt… to clarify to the president these allegations are simply not true.”
The committee released handwritten notes that Donoghue recorded during a December 27 conversation with Trump. According to the notes, Trump told the former DOJ official that “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
While the committee largely focused on the intervention effort from Trump and others at the White House, a number of pro-Trump Republican lawmakers were also in the spotlight on Thursday.
In interviews with former White House staffers and attorneys, the committee shared which GOP lawmakers asked for a presidential pardon: Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama , Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Brooks said on Thursday he is open to appearing before the committee if certain criteria are met, such as removal at a public hearing.
Perry in particular played a key role in the hearing. He is a close ally of Trump, who has been subpoenaed by the committee, although Perry has opposed the removal request. Kinzinger shows a written exchange in which Perry repeatedly urges Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to contact Clark.
In a separate conversation, Perry called Donoghue “at the behest of the president,” where he primarily discussed allegations that the Pennsylvania secretary of state certified more votes than were cast.
But as three witnesses – including former assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel – said on Thursday, most DOJ officials would not follow the former president’s will and get involved. personal and political issues. There is no factual evidence.
“There is obviously a lot of misinformation out there, but to hear it from the Republican appointees who were appointed by Donald Trump, how he is trying to use the Justice Department as a prong. other to overcome the will of the people, that’s powerful,” Kinzinger, who will retire this term, said in a press conference after the hearing. “I hope that people can look at that and understand, again, the effort is to take away your vote – no matter who you voted for.”
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