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Jan 6 committee blasts Donald Trump’s chaotic abuse of DOJ to try to stay in power

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In the most damning evidence yet that former President Donald Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election but was still willing to abuse his office to stay in power, a former senior Department of Justice testified Thursday that Trump told the DOJ to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”

Groundbreaking congressional testimony on Thursday came from former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, one of the few former DOJ officials who stood up to Trump in his final days in office and refused to let the department be misused in this way.

Handwritten notes from Donoghues about his interactions with the former president were presented Thursday during the committees’ fifth public hearing on Jan. 6, where lawmakers on the panel announced that several other members of Congress had ultimately sought presidential clemency for their role in Trump’s far-reaching plan. remain in office.

The committee also revealed that pardons have been sought by some of the most vocal Republicans who have promulgated electoral conspiracy theories, played different roles in disrupting the transfer of power, and publicly called on Trump to stay in office even if by force: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA).

Many of those asking for forgiveness were present at a December 21, 2020 meeting where members of Congress discussed the cancellation of the election. Others, like Gaetz, who have sought a blanket pardon from the beginning of time until today, for anything and everything, according to videotaped testimony from Trump’s White House attorney , Eric Herschmann and Brooks, who asked for a pardon for anyone who voted to void the election, asked for greater immunity.

Cassidy Hutchinson, once an assistant to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, recalled hearing from colleagues that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had also asked for a pardon.

The only reason I know to seek a pardon is because you believe you have committed a crime, said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the committee. They knew everything they were doing was a lie and it was wrong.

None of the lawmakers who allegedly sought Trump’s pardon responded to Daily Beast questions emailed after the hearing.

The hearing began just hours after news broke that federal agents had raided the Virginia home of the former DOJ official at the center of that plot: Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist who once made the under scrutiny for abusing his high-ranking position there in the final weeks of the administration. This relatively unknown government attorney hatched a plan to use the DOJ to cast doubt on election results in states where Trump lost to current President Joe Biden by making vague references to a federal investigation and bullying officials at the state level. His home was raided Wednesday by federal law enforcement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia awkwardly confirmed the raid in vague terms, noting that “there was law enforcement activity in the Lorton, Virginia area yesterday, without commenting on the nature of that activity. or specific individuals.

During Thursday’s hearing, former DOJ executives also recounted what may be one of the most defining moments of the Trump presidency: a Sunday afternoon meeting on Jan. 3, 2021 when Trump nearly fired Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rose not only to hear that several regional U.S. district attorneys across the country had threatened to resign in solidarity if the president militarized the DOJ in this way. When Trump suggested putting Clark in charge, Donoghue told him something that seemed to fit: “Mr. Clark will be left to lead a graveyard.”

On Thursday, the committee also revealed text messages between Trump’s White House chief of staff and a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who lobbied for Clark to rise through the ranks of the DOJ as part of the plan to hijack the department.

In these texts, Perry expressed the urgency of getting Clark to a high enough place where he could make a difference.

Mark, I just checked that time is still running. 11 days at 1/6 and 25 days at the inauguration. We have to go there! wrote the Congressman on December 26, 2020. Mark you should call Jeff [Clark]. I just hung up on him and he explained to me why the senior deputy didn’t work specifically with the FBI. They will consider him as not having the power to enforce what needs to be done.

I understood. I think I understand. Let me work on the assistant position, Meadows replied that evening. The congressman and the White House official then began communicating through Signal, an encrypted chat app with disappearing messages.

The committee also presented new evidence Thursday regarding the messy legal strategy enacted by law professor John Eastman to keep Trump in control by halting the official certification of 2020 electoral college ballots on Jan. 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill. try to derail.

This plan, which involved key states replacing Biden voters by submitting alternative slates of fake voters loyal to Trump, apparently also involved a freshly appointed DOJ attorney assigned to work specifically under Clark as lead counsel: Kenneth A. Klukowski.

This lawyers’ role in the plot, which was based in part on a sustained campaign to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence into abusing his duty as the person counting the ballots in out loud, was detailed in an email written by activist J. Kenneth Blackwellan who worked at the conservative group Groundswell alongside Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni.

In it, Blackwell wrote, As noted last week, I believe the Vice President and his staff would benefit greatly from a briefing from John [Eastman] and Ken [Klukowski]. As I also mentioned, make sure you don’t overexpose Ken given his new position.

At the start of the hearing, Speaker Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said Trump wanted the Justice Department to legitimize his lies, to essentially call the election corrupt, it was a brazen attempt to use the department of Justice to advance the President’s personal agenda.

The three committee witnesses on Thursday were all part of the DOJ leadership during the tumultuous end of the Trump administration which had abrasive interactions with the White House when they took a tough stance and refused to make the calls for offers from the presidents: Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who headed the DOJ’s internal policy development office.

They were willing to sacrifice their careers for the good of our country, Kinzinger said.

All should explain in more detail how Clark tried to use the chaos of Trump’s refusal to concede to Biden to become attorney general and turn what should remain an apolitical law enforcement agency into Trump’s personal tool.

Much of what the nation previously knew about the ordeal came from a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation last year that resulted in a 394-page report titled Subverting Justice: How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.

Internal emails acquired by congressional investigators showed that Clark, then head of the DOJ’s civil division, sought his boss’s approval for a draft letter he wrote to Georgia state officials claiming that the Justice Department was investigating various irregularities and asking the governor and the legislature to convene a special session and hear testimony on allegations of fabricated voter fraud.

Co-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) noted that Clarks’ draft letter sounded too much like the legal theories of law professor John Eastman and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani because it was a key part of their ploy to keep Trump in power.

Clark previously testified under oath before the committee in February, though he repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

On Thursday, the committee released part of a videotaped deposition by former Trump White House counsel Eric Herschmann, one of several attorneys present at a landmark meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 3, 2021. Herschmann expressed bewilderment at Clarks’ proposed plan. to use the DOJ in this way and its ploy to make itself the AG of nations.

I thought Jeff’s proposal was crazy, Herschmann testified, recalling him saying, “The best I can say, the only thing you know about environmental and electoral challenges is that both start by ‘E.

Donoghue, then acting AG, had previously told the committee in a taped interview that Trump’s White House attorney Pat Cipollone called Clarks’ letter a murder-suicide pact that would harm anyone who touched it.

Several lawyers there recalled how Clark tried to argue that his short stint overseeing environmental cases at the DOJ somehow qualified him to be the best lawyer in the country. Donoghue told the committee that he fired back: It’s true. You are an environmental lawyer. How about going back to your office, and we’ll call you if there’s an oil spill? »

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