In the most damning evidence yet that former President Donald Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election but was still willing to abuse his office to stay in power, a top former Justice Department official testified on Thursday that Trump told the DOJ to “just say the election” was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen.”
Thursday’s groundbreaking congressional testimony came from former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, one of a handful of ex-DOJ officials who stood up to Trump in his final days in office and refused to allow the department to be abused in this way.
Donoghue’s handwritten notes of his interactions with the former president were presented Thursday at the committee’s Jan. 6 public hearing, where lawmakers on the panel announced they would also reveal how fellow members of Congress ultimately sought presidential pardon for their role in Trump’s election. wide ranging plan to stay in the office.
The hearing began hours after news broke that federal agents had raided the home of the former Virginia DOJ official at the center of this plot: Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist who has already been under investigation for abuse of his high position there in the last weeks of the administration. This relatively unknown administration attorney devised a plan to use the DOJ to cast doubt on election results in states where Trump lost to current President Joe Biden by making vague references to a federal investigation and intimidating state-level officials. His house was searched by the federal police on Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia clumsily confirmed the raid in vague terms, noting that there was “law enforcement activity in the Lorton, Virginia area” yesterday without commenting on “the nature of that activity or particular individuals.”
President Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said Trump “wanted the Justice Department to legitimize its lies, to basically call the election corrupt…it was a brazen attempt to use the Justice Department to manipulate the President’s personal agenda.” to improve.”
The three committee witnesses Thursday were all part of the DOJ leadership during the Trump administration’s tumultuous end, who had abrasive interactions with the White House as they took a firm stance and refused to carry out the president’s order. : then Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, former Deputy Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who headed the DOJ’s internal policy bureau.
“They were willing to sacrifice their careers for the good of our country,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
Everyone is expected to explain in more detail how Clark tried to stir up the chaos of Trump’s refusal to give in to Biden to make himself Attorney General — and to make what should remain a non-political law enforcement agency Trump’s personal tool. to make.
Much of what the nation previously knew about the ordeal came from an investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that culminated in a report of 394 pages titled, “Undermining Justice: How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Undo the 2020 Election.”
Internal emails obtained by congressional investigators showed that Clark, then the chief of the DOJ’s civil division, asked his boss for approval for a draft letter he wrote to Georgia state officials claiming that the Justice Department ” investigated various irregularities” and the governor and the legislature there asked to “meet in special session” and hear testimony about fabricated claims of voter fraud.
Co-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) noted that Clark’s draft letter was all too similar to the legal theories of Professor John Eastman and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, as it was a key part of their ploy to get Trump to power. to keep.
Clark testified under oath before the committee in February, though he repeatedly declined to answer questions, citing his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
On Thursday, the committee played part of a videotaped statement by Eric Herschmann, former Trump White House attorney, one of the attorneys who attended a decision-making meeting in the Oval Office on January 3, 2021. Herschmann expressed his bewilderment. about Clark’s proposed plan. to use the DOJ in this way – and his trick to making himself the AG of the nation.
“I thought Jeff’s proposal was insane,” Herschmann testified, recalling saying, “All I can say is that all you know about environmental and election challenges is that both start with ‘ E’.”
Donoghue, then the acting AG, previously told the committee in a taped interview that Trump White House attorney Pat Cipollone called Clark’s letter “a murder-suicide pact” that would “harm anyone who touches it.”
Several attorneys there recalled how Clark tried to argue that his brief stint overseeing environmental affairs at the DOJ somehow qualified him to become the top attorney in the country. Donoghue told the committee that he fired back: “That’s right. You are an environmental lawyer. Go back to your office and we’ll call you if there’s an oil leak.”