Investigative Panel Says Trump Pressured Justice Department To Undo Elections

The commission said Trump put pressure on the Justice Department to back up his false claims.

Washington:

Lawmakers investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol on Thursday have outlined Donald Trump’s “brutal” efforts to recruit the Justice Department for his plan to reverse his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden.

At the fifth hearing in its year-long investigation into the insurgency, the House of Representatives panel described Trump’s pressure on officials as part of his campaign to falsely claim that his presidency was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.

“Donald Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate. He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize its lies and unjustifiably call the election corrupt,” said committee chair Bennie Thompson.

Lawmakers revised tensions between government attorneys over the weekend before the Jan. 6, 2021 uprising, when Trump attempted to install his own man at the top of the department.

“It was a brazen attempt to use the Justice Department to advance the president’s personal political agenda,” Thompson said.

Hearing from Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general after Bill Barr stepped down, the commission soon found itself at the center of Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the election.

Underlining the intensity of Trump’s pressure on the department, Rosen said the president was in touch with him almost daily in late December 2020 and early January 2021.

“At one point, he had raised the issue of having a special counsel for election fraud. On a number of points, he requested me to meet with his campaign adviser, Mr. (Rudy) Giuliani,” Rosen said.

“At one point he asked if the Justice Department would file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court. At a few moments there were questions about making public statements or holding a press conference.”

The DOJ pursued a flurry of allegations of Trump electoral fraud, but Rosen said officials were given no evidence.

It was then that Trump began to elevate a little-known mid-level official named Jeffrey Clark, who embraced the debunked theories of the outgoing president.

– Oval Office showdown –

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 were also drafted for other states.

Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee in a videotaped statement that he had informed Clark that his plan would amount to “committing a crime.”

Trump considered installing Clark as attorney general over Rosen, and asking Clark to reverse the Department’s conclusion that there was no evidence of fraud that could affect the election.

But Trump was forced to withdraw due to an uprising in the department’s senior ranks during a Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting, described in detail by the witnesses.

Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, another senior official named Steven Engel and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, threatened to resign en masse, warning they would take a slew of top prosecutors with them if Trump carried out his plan.

“I made the point that Jeff Clark isn’t even qualified to serve as an attorney general. He’s never been a criminal defense attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life,” Donoghue recalled to Trump.

Donoghue told Clark, “You’re an environmental lawyer. Go back to your office and we’ll call you if there’s an oil spill?”

Under live questioning, Donoghue confirmed that he had rejected Trump when the then-president insisted that the department could simply “say the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me.”

In a front-page story about the affair, federal investigators searched Clark’s home on Wednesday.

The US attorney in Washington did not comment on the reason for the action, but the Center for Renewing America, where Clark works, confirmed the search, calling it “government arms weapons.”

In addition to the drama, Hollywood actor Sean Penn was at Thursday’s hearing as a guest of former police officer Michael Fanone, who was seriously injured on January 6 and testified about his ordeal last year.

“I’m just here to observe, just another citizen.” Penn told reporters, adding that he had been following the hearings.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)

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