WASHINGTON (TAUT) — The Jan. 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced a relentless campaign of pressure from Donald Trump over the 2020 presidential election results while suppressing a bizarre challenge in their own ranks.
Thursday’s hearing will draw attention to a memorably turbulent time at the department as Trump, in his final days in office, sought to bend to his will a law enforcement agency that had long cherished its independence from government. -vis the White House. The testimony aims to show how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to push his allegations of voter fraud, but also tried to leverage the powers of federal executive branch agencies.
Witnesses will include Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense confrontation in the Oval Office in which Trump considered replacing him with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to defend Trump’s voter fraud allegations.
Two other former department officials, Rosen’s deputy principal Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, are also scheduled to testify. Both warned Trump at the White House meeting that they would step down and that many department attorneys would follow if he replaced Rosen with Clark.
“You could have a situation here, within 24 hours you have hundreds of people resigning from the Justice Department,” Donoghue told Trump. “Is this good for anyone?” Is it good for the department? Is it good for the country? Would that be okay with you. It’s not.”
Only then did Trump relent. The night, and later his administration, ended with Rosen still in power.
The hearing is the fifth this month by the committee investigating preparations for the insurgency on Capitol Hill, when Trump loyalists stormed the building as lawmakers certified the results of the election Joe won. Biden. Among the witnesses are police officers attacked on Capitol Hill as well as lawyers, a television official and local election officials who have all resisted demands to change the results in favor of Trump.
The committee last week presented videotaped depositions of former Attorney General William Barr, who blasted Trump’s fraud allegations as ‘bull’, ‘false’ and ‘idiot’ and resigned after failing to convince the president.
Thursday’s hearing will focus on what happened next as Rosen, Barr’s deputy principal, took control of the department and immediately found himself beleaguered by Justice Department demands for action from Trump.
In a phone conversation, according to handwritten notes taken by Donoghue and made public by lawmakers last year, Trump asked Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Congressmen R .”.
Around this time, Trump was introduced by a Republican congressman, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, to Clark, who had joined the department in 2018 as chief environmental attorney and was later named to lead its civil division. Clark was earlier subpoenaed by the committee to give evidence but will not be among the witnesses on Thursday.
Clark, according to statements from other Justice Department officials, met with Trump despite being ordered not to by department bosses and presented himself as eager to help the president’s efforts to challenge the results. elections. A report released last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee that described Clark as a relentless defender of Trump included a draft letter urging Georgia officials to call a special legislative session to reconsider the election results.
Clark wanted the letter sent, but Justice Department superiors refused.
The situation came to a head on January 3, 2021, a Sunday, when Clark informed Rosen in a private meeting at the Justice Department that Trump wanted to replace him with Clark as acting attorney general. Rosen, according to the Senate report, replied that “there was no universe that I could imagine in which that would happen” and that he would not agree to be fired by a subordinate.
Rosen then contacted the White House to request a meeting. That night, Rosen, Donoghue, and Engel, along with Clark, sat down with Trump and top White House lawyers for a contentious hours-long Oval Office meeting to discuss whether the president should follow through on his plans for a radical change of direction at the department.
According to Rosen’s testimony, Trump opened the meeting by saying, “One thing we know is that you, Rosen, will do nothing to nullify the election.
Donoghue and Engel made it clear to Trump that they and many other Justice Department officials would resign if Trump fired Rosen. White House lawyers said the same thing. Then-White House attorney Pat Cipollone said at one point that the letter Clark wanted to send was a “murder-suicide pact.”
“Steve Engel said at one point, ‘Jeff Clark will run a cemetery. And what are you going to do with a cemetery,’ there would be such an exodus of leadership,” Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee “So it was very strongly indicated to the president that this would happen.”
Donoghue also sought to dissuade Trump from believing that Clark had the legal knowledge to do what the president wanted since he was not a prosecutor with the department.
“And he sort of shot back and said, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated calls and civil litigation, environmental litigation and things like that,'” Donoghue said. “That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer. How about going back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”