1/6 panel to hear about Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The January 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced a relentless press campaign by Donald Trump over the results of the 2020 presidential election while suppressing a bizarre challenge within their own ranks.

Thursday’s hearing will draw attention to a memorable period of turmoil at the department as Trump, in his final days in office, tried to bend a law enforcement agency that long cherished his independence from the White House. The testimony is intended to show how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to make his allegations of voter fraud, but also attempted to use the powers of federal executive agencies.

Witnesses include Jeffrey Rosen, who was Attorney General during… the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol† Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump considered replacing him with a lower-ranking official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to defend Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Two other former department officials, Rosen’s top deputy, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, are also scheduled to testify. Both warned Trump at the White House meeting that they would resign and that many of the department’s lawyers would follow suit if he replaced Rosen with Clark.

“You could have a situation here, within 24 hours you’ll have hundreds of people resigning from the Justice Department,” Donoghue told Trump. “Is that good for anyone? Is it good for the department? Is it good for the country? It is good for you. It’s not.”

Only then did Trump give in. The night, and later his reign, ended with Rosen still in power.

The hearing is the fifth this month by the committee investigating the lead-up to the Capitol uprising, when Trump loyalists stormed the building as lawmakers certify the results of Joe Biden’s won election. Witnesses include police officers who were attacked at the Capitol, as well as lawyers, a television executive and local election officials who all resisted demands to change the results in Trump’s favour.

The commission last week presented videotaped statements by former Attorney General William Barr, who: denounced Trump’s fraud claims as “bull-“, “fake” and “idiot” and resigned after failing to convince the president.

Thursday’s hearing will focus on what happened next when Rosen, Barr’s top deputy, took over the department and was immediately besieged by Trump’s demands for Justice Department action.

In one phone call according to handwritten notes taken by Donoghue and made public by lawmakers last year, Trump sent Rosen to “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”

Around that time, Trump was introduced by a Republican congressman, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, to Clark, who joined the division in 2018 as chief environmental attorney and was later appointed to lead the civil division. Clark was previously subpoenaed by the commission to give a statement but will not be with the witnesses on Thursday.

Clark, according to statements by other Justice Department officials, met with Trump despite being instructed not to do so by Department bosses, and presented himself as eager to assist the president in his efforts to publicize the election results. to fight. A report Released last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee that portrayed Clark as a ruthless Trump advocate, including a draft letter urging officials in Georgia to call a special legislative session to reconsider election results.

Clark wanted the letter sent, but Justice Department superiors refused.

The situation came to a head on Sunday, January 3, 2021, 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 replied, according to the Senate report, that “there was no universe I could imagine where that would ever happen” and that he would not accept being fired by a subordinate.

Rosen then contacted the White House to request a meeting. That evening, Rosen, Donoghue and Engel, along with Clark, gathered with Trump and top White House attorneys for a controversial hour-long Oval Office meeting about whether the president should push through with his plans for a radical leadership change in the department. .

According to Rosen’s testimony, Trump opened the rally by saying, “One thing we know for sure: you, Rosen, are not going to do anything to undo the election.”

Donoghue and Engel made it clear to Trump that they and a host of other Justice Department officials would resign if Trump fired Rosen. White House attorneys said the same thing. Pat Cipollone, White House counsel at the time, 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 graveyard. And what are you going to do with a graveyard,’ that there would be such an exodus from leadership,” Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee. it was worded very forcefully against the president that that would happen.”

Donoghue also tried to dissuade Trump from believing that Clark had the legal background to do what the president wanted, since he was not a criminal prosecutor with the department.

“And he kind of answered by saying, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil lawsuits, environmental lawsuits and things like that,'” Donoghue said. And I said, ‘That’s right. You are an environmental lawyer. Just go back to your office and we’ll call you if there’s an oil leak.’”

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