The House committee investigating thefocused Thursday’s hearing on the efforts of then-President Donald Trump and the former Justice Department official to pressure the department to help overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Trump wanted to fire acting attorney general Jeff Rosen, who had just taken office in December 2020, after the attorney generalhe became an officer, and to replace him with Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never prosecuted a criminal case. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who led the questioning Thursday, said Clark’s only qualification was that he would “do what the president wants him to do.”
Installing Clark and the pressure campaign on the Justice Department amounted to “essentially a political coup,” said committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson.
In video testimony, former White House counsel Eric Herschmann said of Clark that “the best I can say is that the only thing you know about environmental and electoral challenges is that they both start with ‘E.'”
Three former Justice Department officials testified before the committee Thursday: former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Deputy Attorney General Steven Engel. Donoghue showed handwritten notes he had taken during a call with Trump, in which the former president said: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the others.” [Republican] congressmen”.
Trump’s determination to install Clark as the nation’s top law enforcement official was evident: White House call logs from January 3, 2021 that the committee showed already referred to Clark as the prosecutor. acting general. But all of the deputy attorneys general have threatened to resign if Clark were named to head the Justice Department, former deputy attorney general Steven Engel, who led the Office of Legal Counsel, testified Thursday, and this reality convinced Trump to reconsider.
Donoghue testified Thursday that Clark wanted to send a letter to the Georgia Legislature from the Justice Department questioning the integrity of the election, a move that “very well could have led us into a constitutional crisis” if that plan had been allowed to go ahead. . Donoghue said.
After the 2020 election, Trump relentlessly pushed the Justice Department to investigate his claims of voter fraud, even after they had been investigated and refuted. At one point, when the Justice Department refused to act on a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Biden, the Defense Department did some digging. Donoghue dismissed the theory as “absurd”.
Kinzinger said the panel learned that former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ended up calling the attaché in Italy to investigate the Italian satellite claim.
Donoghue’s handwritten notes noted that Trump told senior Justice Department officials, “You may not be following the Internet like I am.”
“This is one of the best examples of how far President Trump would go to stay in power,” Kinzinger said. “Scouting the Internet to Support His Conspiracy Theories”.
Meanwhile, CBS News has learned that there was a search of Clark’s home on Wednesday morning.
It was also revealed Thursday that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and other Republican members of Congress have asked the White House for clemency, according to taped communications and taped testimony from former White House aides.
Five days after the attack on Capitol Hill, Rep. Mo Brooks emailed the White House a letter “pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz,” recommending that the president grant “blanket pardons” to the following groups of people: all Congressmen and Senators who voted to reject the Arizona and Pennsylvania Electoral College vote submissions.”
Meanwhile, Brooks responded to the revelation of his clemency request in a text message to CBS News, saying “there was concern that Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans who acted in accordance with their duties.” constitutional or statutory under 3 CSU 15″.
The committee has not set dates for the next hearings, which Thompson said earlier this week would likely be in July.
Ellis Kim contributed to this report.