The House Committee investigating theThursday’s hearing focused on the efforts of then-President Donald Trump and a former Justice Department official to put pressure on the department to reverse the 2020 election results.
Trump wanted to fire Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen — who just took over in December 2020, after Attorney Generalbecame official — and to replace him with Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never prosecuted a criminal case. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who led Thursday’s questioning, said Clark’s only qualification was that “he would do what the president wanted him to do.”
Installing Clark and the pressure campaign on the Justice Department amounted to “essentially a political coup,” said committee chair Rep. Benny Thompson.
In a video testimonial, former White House attorney Eric Herschmann said of Clark that “All you know about environmental and election challenges is that they both start with ‘E’.”
Three former Justice Department officials testified before the committee on Thursday — former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel. Donoghue showed handwritten notes he took during a phone call with Trump in which the former president said, “Tell me the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen.”
Trump’s determination to install Clark as the nation’s top law enforcement officer was clear – Jan. 3, 2021 In the White House call logs shown by the commission, Clark was already named the acting attorney general. But all deputy attorneys general threatened to quit if Clark was installed to run the Justice Department, former assistant attorney general Steven Engel, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel, testified Thursday, and this reality convinced Trump to reconsider. .
Donoghue testified on Thursday that Clark wanted to send a letter from the Justice Department to the Georgia legislature questioning the integrity of the election, a move that “would very well have landed us in a constitutional crisis” if that plan had been done. Allowed. said Donoghue.
After the 2020 election, Trump relentlessly urged the Justice Department to investigate his allegations of voter fraud, even after they had been investigated and refuted. At one point, when the Justice Department declined to comment on a conspiracy theory claiming Italian satellites swapped Trump’s votes for Biden, the Defense Department made some inquiries. Donoghue dismissed the theory as “absurd.”
Kinzinger said the panel learned that former acting defense secretary Chris Miller eventually called the attaché in Italy to investigate the Italian satellite claim.
Handwritten notes from Donoghue noted that Trump told top Justice Department officials, “You may not follow the internet like I do.”
“This is one of the best examples of the efforts President Trump would make to stay in power,” Kinzinger said. “Scouring the internet to support his conspiracy theories.”
Meanwhile, CBS News learned that a search was conducted at Clark’s home on Wednesday morning.
It was also revealed on Thursday that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and other GOP members of Congress were asking for a pardon from the White House, according to recorded communications and recorded testimony from former White House aides.
Five days after the attack on the Capitol, Representative Mo Brooks emailed the White House a letter “at the request of Matt Gaetz,” advising the president to pardon “the following groups of people: every congressman and senator who voted to reject the voting entries of the Electoral College of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
Brooks, meanwhile, responded to the disclosure of his pardon in a text message to CBS News, saying that “there was a concern that Democrats would abuse the justice system by prosecuting and imprisoning Republicans who acted in accordance with their constitutional or legal requirements.” duties under 3 USC15.”
The committee has not set the dates of the next hearings, which Thompson said are likely to take place in July earlier this week.
Ellis Kim contributed to this report.