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January 6 committee details Trump’s DOJ coup attempt

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Donald Trump spent the final weeks before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol vacillating recklessly between conspiracy theories and fending off anyone who tried to intervene.

During Thursday’s Jan. 6 select committee hearing, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) described Trump’s activities as essentially a political coup. And it almost was, but the committee’s effort seemed like something out of a weird dark comedy, with every detail wackier than the last.

The courtroom erupted in laughter at times over ineffective attempts by Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to seize control of the department and nullify the election.

Clark partnered with Trump, going through Trump allies and around his own bosses, and became part of their plot to nullify the election by appointing bogus voters from swing states to replace legitimate voters who were to be counted on January 6. Clark was ready to execute a plan that no one in line to be attorney general would touch, and it put him in a position to step up to a job that was otherwise out of reach. This conspiracy was the focus of Thursday’s hearing.

Attendees snickered as Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen described his reaction when his then-subordinate Clark asked him to remain as his subordinate once Clark usurped him. I did not accept that offer, Rosen said.

“Did Mr. Clark ask you to continue to stay” at the DoJ?

Rosen: “When he told me he would replace me… at least offered me that I could remain his deputy. I thought that was absurd. It was absurd. No universe where I was going to do that. don’t accept this offer.” pic.twitter.com/JRDgbXgwVK

Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) June 23, 2022

It sometimes looked more like a Friars Club roast than a congressional hearing, as top Republican lawyers repeatedly described Clarks’ mocking efforts at the Oval Office meeting Rosen demanded once he caught wind of Trump and Clarks’ plans.

The committee showed footage of former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann railing against Clark, describing his proposal as stupid and recounting how he said of the environmental lawyer, Best I can say, it’s that the only thing you know about environmental and electoral challenges is that they both start with E. And based on your answers tonight, I’m not even sure you know that. Former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, who was testifying in person, described Clark’s disparaging legal experience directly to Trump. When Clark tried to answer, Donoghue sneered, you’re an environmental lawyer. How about returning to your office and calling you in the event of an oil spill?

But before this encounter, Clark was on the verge of success. The White House appears to have considered the deal done: It listed Clark on its call log as acting attorney general ahead of the meeting. Trump only backed down after other Justice and White House officials made it clear to him that Clark’s appointment would turn the Justice Department into a graveyard, with mass resignations.

Steven Engel, the head of the Office of General Counsel, pointed out that it would be a public relations disaster for Trump on top of all the other negative consequences of trying to nullify the election. Everyone’s gonna think you went through two attorneys general in two weeks, until you found the environment guy to sign this thing, he said of the letter Clark wanted to send to swing states.

By providing a full account of Trump’s failed efforts, the committee showed an increasingly desperate man pursuing increasingly bizarre justifications for nullifying the election. They revealed that Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller had personally investigated a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites operated from the US Embassy in Rome transferred votes from Trump to Biden with the help from MI6 and the CIA. Sheer madness, Donoghue said of the video sent to him about the theory. Trump also asked the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security to seize the voting machines based on another conspiracy theory.

Just hours after the pivotal Oval Office meeting where Trump was dissuaded from appointing Clark to head the Justice Department, thwarting a coup attempt, Trump called Donoghue again. This call related to a new allegation that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer found a truck full of shredded ballots from Georgia.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr had, in previously released deposition footage, likened Trump’s persistence in pursuing new allegations of voter fraud to a game of molestation. We saw on Thursday just how much of Trump’s understated dedication to finding an excuse to cling to power.

But if Trump behaved recklessly without any regard to the law or historical precedent, we learned that some of the allies involved in supporting his plot saw reason to be afraid of the consequences. The committee also shared footage of White House officials testifying that a number of members of Congress sought Trump’s pardon after Jan. 6, including Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R- AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Scott Perry (R-PA). All had attended a White House meeting in late December to plan the January 6 insurrection.

Witnesses told the select committee that Trump was considering offering pardons to a wide range of people connected to the president. pic.twitter.com/LRJat3Algf

January 6 Committee (@January6thCmte) June 23, 2022

None of these members now say they were really worried about what they had done. Gaetz pointed to a tweet describing the committee as an unconstitutional political spectacle, a spokesperson for Greene shared a tweet that characterized the committee as engaging in gossip and lies while a spokesperson for Brooks said in a statement: There was a concern that Democrats were abusing the justice system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans who acted in accordance with their constitutional or statutory duties. In a statement, Perry said, I stand by my statement that I never sought a presidential pardon for myself or other members of Congress. Gohmert said in a statement that I had and have nothing to apologize for and that my requests were directed at others not associated with the Washington, DC government. Biggs denied asking for a pardon as well.

In his final days in office, Trump was handing out pardons like Christmas presents, as Axios reported at the time, and even suggested he could pardon anyone who spoke to me. He pardoned allies including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former senior White House official Steve Bannon and seven former Republican congressmen for various prior offenses. But he has not forgiven anyone linked to efforts to reverse the 2020 election.

During the hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) described the pardon request as a tacit admission of guilt. The only reason I know to ask for forgiveness is because you think you’ve committed a crime, he said.

Thursday’s hearing, for all its unintended comedy, did more than any of the previous ones to show how serious Trump’s deadly efforts to overthrow the election were, and to show how little separated him. of the achievement of this objective. Officials loyal to Trump’s own administration have rejected a plan to cancel the Jan. 3 election. Of course, there was a more violent backup plan in prospect.

But the DOJ conspiracy illustrated, as Kinzinger said at the start of Thursday’s hearing, how close we were to losing everything.

Sources

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2/ https://www.vox.com/2022/6/23/23180854/january-6-hearings-justice-department-trump-coup

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