The wave of clemency requests followed what the select committee showed as weeks of efforts by Trump’s top Congressional Republican advocates to spread disinformation about the 2020 election results. Those GOP lawmakers also helped make pressure on the Department of Justice to legitimize these false allegations of fraud. None of the lawmakers has ever been pardoned.
At a previous hearing, the Jan. 6 panel showed an email from attorney John Eastman, one of the key architects of Trump’s bid to stay in power, asking to be placed on the “death list.” sorry” from Trump. He too was never pardoned.
The select committee’s fifth public hearing highlighted efforts by Trump and his allies to enlist the DOJ in his bid to grab a second term after losing the election. Trump’s top officials at the time — acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue and former chief legal counsel Steven Engel — described a series of increasingly desperate meetings to push back against efforts. of Trump to deploy the DOJ to serve his efforts, and an intense and ultimately successful effort to prevent him from installing a more docile official at the top of the department.
“He lobbied the Justice Department to act as an arm of his re-election campaign,” said selection committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
The panel also pointed to Trump’s own direct pressure on the DOJ, which intensified in the days after former Attorney General William Barr announced his resignation in mid-December 2020.
“…Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Members of Congress,” former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue recalled during a Dec. 27, 2020, meeting.
The hearing highlighted how Trump’s western wing became a haven for voter fraud conspiracy theories which he then tasked the DOJ and other cabinet agencies to investigate. When theories were debunked, Trump fell back on news, often pulled from remote corners of the internet and laundered through pro-Trump channels until it reached the Oval Office.
“You may not follow the internet like I do,” Trump told officials, according to Thursday’s testimony.
Donoghue described one such theory – that Italian satellites transferred votes from Trump to Joe Biden – as “pure madness”. But the select committee also showed that Trump’s new acting defense secretary, Chris Miller, had called officials in Italy to inquire about the bizarre theory.
Much of the audience highlighted how Trump’s allies in Congress have helped increase pressure on the DOJ even as the Department has consistently debunked Donald Trump’s voter fraud allegations.
The select panel showed Thursday that Perry — who now chairs the House Freedom Caucus — helped connect Trump with Clark, a little-known DOJ environmental official who Trump hoped would amplify his debunked claims of voter fraud. Perry brought Clark to the White House on Dec. 22, 2020, according to visitor logs released by the Capitol Riot Committee.
Trump would go so far as to offer Clark the top job in the Justice Department, only to back down as Rosen, Donoghue and Engel — along with then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone — set guard against a mass exodus within the DOJ. Engel’s warning to Trump that a Clark-run DOJ would be a “graveyard” apparently affected Trump, witnesses said, and he backed out of the plan.
Donoghue pointed out that Trump had made it clear he was not interested in the merits of the voter fraud allegations — only in the willingness of the DOJ to approve them and then leave the rest to him and his allies. As part of that plot, Trump had pressed his DOJ leaders to release a letter outlining concerns about election irregularities in several states.
Clark was ready to release that letter, urging states to reconvene their legislatures and consider nominating new presidential voters who would favor Trump. Clark, questioned on those issues by the select committee during a deposition earlier this year, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against possible self-incrimination and asserted executive privilege.
FBI officials raided Clark’s home on Wednesday, a sign some members of the select committee saw as part of a rapidly escalating criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to void the election.
In court documents related to its investigation, the committee revealed text messages between Perry and Meadows in which Perry urged Meadows to elevate Clark to the DOJ as soon as possible. The two also discussed a potential assistant for Clark. The select committee also obtained testimony that Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting Perry during those crucial post-election weeks.
Rosen and Donoghue also described their experiences on Jan. 6, noting that they were constantly on the phone with congressional leaders, cabinet officials, then-Vice President Mike Pence and top White House aides. But they noted they had never heard of Trump amid the chaos.
Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed reporting.