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

The Jan. 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the results of the 2020 presidential election while suppressing a bizarre challenge from within their own ranks.

Thursday’s hearing will draw attention to a memorably turbulent stretch in the department, as Trump in his final days in office sought to bend to his will a law enforcement agency that has long prized its independence from the White House. The testimony is intended to show how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to press his claims of voter fraud, but also tried to take advantage of the powers of federal executive branch agencies.

Witnesses will include Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol. Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense standoff in the Oval Office in which Trump contemplated replacing him. with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to defend Trump’s voter fraud claims.

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 him if he replaced Rosen with Clark.

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

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

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

Last week, the committee released videotaped statements from former Attorney General William Barr, who criticized Trump’s fraud claims as “nonsense,” “untrue” and “idiotic” and resigned after failing to convince the president of it.

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 that the Justice Department take action.

In a phone conversation, according to handwritten notes taken by Donoghue and made public by lawmakers last year, Trump instructed Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the congressional Republicans.”

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

Clark, according to statements from other Justice Department officials, met with Trump despite being directed not to by department heads and was eager to aid the president’s efforts to challenge the election results. A report released last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee that described Clark as a relentless supporter of Trump included a draft letter urging Georgia officials to call a special legislative session to reconsider the election results.

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

The situation came to a head on January 3, 2021, a Sunday, 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, according to the Senate report, responded that “there was no universe that he could imagine in which that could happen” and that he would not accept being fired for a subordinate.

Rosen then contacted the White House to request a meeting. That night, Rosen, Donoghue and Engel, along with Clark, met with Trump and top White House lawyers for a contentious hour-long meeting in the Oval Office about whether the president should go ahead with his plans for radical change. leadership in the department.

According to Rosen’s testimony, Trump opened the meeting by saying, “One thing we know is that you, Rosen, are not going to do anything to nullify the election.”

Donoghue and Engel made it clear to Trump that they and a large number of other Justice Department officials would resign if Trump fired Rosen. White House lawyers said the same thing. Pat Cipollone, then a White House attorney, at one point said that the letter Clark wanted to send was a “murder-suicide pact.”

“Steve Engel at one point said, ‘Jeff Clark will be running a cemetery. And what are you going to do with a cemetery? That there would be such an exodus of leaders,” Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “So the president was told very strongly 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 in the department.

“And he responded by saying, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation and things like that,’” Donoghue said. “And I said, ‘That’s right. You are an environmental lawyer. How about he comes back to his office and we call him when there’s an oil spill?

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