Lawmakers investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday described Donald Trump’s “rude” attempt to recruit the Justice Department into his scheme to undo his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden.
At the fifth hearing in a year -long investigation into the insurgency, a House of Representatives panel detailed Trump’s pressure on officials as part of his campaign to falsely assert that his presidency had been stolen from him by widespread voter fraud.
“Donald Trump not only wants the Justice Department to investigate. He wants the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies, to unfoundedly call the election corrupt,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson said.
Lawmakers revisited tensions among government lawyers in the weekend before the Jan. 6, 2021 uprising, when Trump tried to install his own people at the top of the department.
“It’s a rude attempt to use the Department of Justice to advance the President’s personal political agenda,” Thompson said.
The committee heard from Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general after Bill Barr resigned, and soon found himself at the center of Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the election.
Outlining the intensity of Trump’s pressure on the department, Rosen said in late December 2020 and early January 2021, the president contacted him almost daily.
“At one point, he had raised the question of having a special lawyer for election fraud. On several occasions, he raised a request for me to meet with his campaign lawyer, Mr. (Rudy) Giuliani,” Rosen said.
“At one point, he raised whether the Justice Department would file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court. At some point, there were questions about making a public statement or about holding a press conference.”
The DOJ is pursuing many of Trump’s election fraud claims, but Rosen said officials submitted without evidence.
It was at that point that Trump began appointing a lesser -known middle -level department official named Jeffrey Clark, who accepted the undeniable theory of the outgoing president.
– Oval Office Fight –
Clark prepared a letter to the Georgia Assembly, the hearing was told, stating that the department had found evidence of widespread voter fraud but other officials refused to sign it. Other letters have also been prepared for other states.
Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee in video footage that he had informed Clark that his plan would amount to “committing a crime.”
Trump considered placing Clark as attorney general over Rosen, and asked Clark to reverse the department’s conclusion that there was no evidence of fraud that could influence the election.
But Trump was forced to step down by a revolt in the department’s senior ranks at a Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting outlined in detail by witnesses.
Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, another high-ranking official named Steven Engel and White House attorney Pat Cipollone threatened to resign en masse, warning that they would bring a raft of federal prosecutors with them, if Trump went ahead with his plan.
“I state that Jeff Clark is incompetent to serve as attorney general. He has never been a criminal lawyer. He has never conducted a criminal investigation in his life,” Donoghue said when told Trump.
Donoghue said he told Clark: “You’re an environmental lawyer. What if you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill?”
Under direct interrogation, Donoghue confirmed that he had rejected Trump when the then president insisted the department could only “say that the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me.”
In a coda that drew the headline, federal investigators searched Clark’s home on Wednesday.
U.S. attorneys in Washington did not comment on the reason for the action but the Center for American Reform, where Clark works, confirmed the search, calling it a “government weapon.”
Adding to the drama, Hollywood actor Sean Penn was at the hearing Thursday as a guest of former police officer Michael Fanone, who was seriously injured on Jan. 6 and testified last year about the bitter experience.
“I’m here just to observe, just a citizen.” Penn told reporters, adding that he had followed the trial.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by AGRASMARTCITY staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)