WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump’s threat to oust his attorney general in favor of someone more willing to pursue his baseless claims of election fraud will be the focus the House Jan. 6 committee’s hearing Thursday.
- ⌚ When does the hearing start? 3 p.m. EDT
- ⚖️ How did the DOJ showdown go down: After top Justice Department officials found no merit to Trump’s election fraud allegations, Trump considered replacing Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. But relented after an Oval Office showdown where top lawyers at the Justice Department and White House counsel’s office threatened to resign.
- ?️ Who is expected to testify? Three former Justice Department officials – Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and Steve Engel, an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel – are expected to describe the Oval Office showdown over removing Rosen.
- ?What do we know about their testimony? The committee has already played portions of taped depositions with Rosen and Donoghue, illustrating how each told Trump they investigated his claims of election fraud and came up empty.
Feds descend on home of ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark
Federal authorities on Wednesday were at the suburban Virginia home of former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, once central to Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, two people familiar with the matter said Thursday.
Clark is expected to be a central figure in Thursday’s hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee, which will outline Trump’s unsuccessful plan to install him as acting attorney general to pursue false allegations of election fraud.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., confirmed that law enforcement activity occurred in the general vicinity of Clark’s home, but declined to describe the purpose of the action.
– Kevin Johnson
The British documentarian who filmed former President Donald Trump and his children before and after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, confirmed in a tweet he gave the House investigative panel a deposition Thursday.
Alex Holder provided the committee with recordings of Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., among others he collected for a three-part documentary scheduled for release this summer. But Holder declined further comment.
“As I’ve stated previously, I have provided the committee with all requested materials and am fully cooperating with the investigation,” Holder said.
– Bart Jansen
DOJ showdown with Trump in Oval Office
Three days before the Capitol attack – Jan. 3, 2021 – Trump called an Oval Office meeting with Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and White House lawyers to discuss firing Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and replacing him with Clark.
Donoghue said Rosen was put in the awkward position of defending his own job during the two-and-a-half hour confrontation. Donoghue derided Clark as an environmental lawyer who had never prosecuted a criminal case or argued before a jury.
“You’re going to hurt the country, you’re going to hurt the department, you’re going to hurt yourself, with people grasping at straws on these desperate theories about election fraud, and is this really in anyone’s best interest,” Donoghue said he told Trump.
Who is Jeffrey Clark?
Clark, who worked off and on at the Justice Department since 2001, was Trump’s assistant attorney general for the environment and he became acting head of the civil division Sept. 3, 2020. Clark and Rosen had a long relationship after working at the same law firm.
But Donoghue said Rosen got angry when Clark requested a classified briefing about allegations the Chinese had internet access to U.S. voting machines through smart thermostats. Donoghue called the allegation “very odd” in his deposition.
Clark drafted a letter Dec. 28, 2020, for whoever was attorney general to send to six states that Biden won, suggesting legislative leaders could send alternate electors to Congress supporting Trump. Donoghue told Clark his factual claim was wrong and the Justice Department doesn’t provide quality control for state elections – states run their own elections.
Clark refused to answer committee questions by citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Rosen: Trump claims of election fraud ‘debunked’
Jeffrey Rosen served as acting attorney general for the final month of the Trump administration, after former Attorney General Bill Barr resigned in part over president’s spurious claims of fraud.
Rosen told the committee Trump would ask about election fraud allegations he’d seen on television or heard from people in Georgia or Pennsylvania that had already been debunked.
“We were in a position to say people already looked at that and we know you’re getting bad information. That’s not correct. It’s been demonstrated to be not correct,” Rosen said. “In our point of view, it was debunked.”
Donoghue told Trump his claims of election fraud were unsubstantiated
Richard Donoghue, Rosen’s deputy, told the committee he bluntly confronted Trump over the baseless claims after overseeing dozens of investigations involving hundreds of interviews. But each time he batted away a claim, Trump would suggest another.
Donoghue said an error rate for Michigan ballots was exaggerated by 10,000 times and occurred in only one case in 15,000. After a Pennsylvania truck driver said he transported ballots from New York, investigators interviewed people who loaded and unloaded the truck – and found the allegation unsupported, he said. In Georgia, a report of a suitcase of fraudulent ballots was entirely false, with the container mistaken for the wheeled bin that stored legitimate ballots, he said.
“There are so many of these allegations that when you gave him a very direct answer on one of them, he wouldn’t fight us on it, but he would go through another allegation,” Donoghue said.
Trump relented after top lawyers threatened to resign
Despite the opposition, Trump wanted to replace Rosen with Clark because Clark argued more aggressively to challenge state election results that favored President Joe Biden. Clark drafted a letter Dec. 28, 2020, to officials in six states urging legislatures to investigate and potentially reject Biden electors.
All the lawyers in the meeting – Rosen, Donoghue, Engel, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, deputy counsel Pat Philbin and Eric Herschmann – each opposed the ouster other than Clark.
“The president said, ‘Suppose I do this. Suppose I replace him, Jeff Rosen, with him, Jeff Clark. What do you do?’ And I said, ‘Sir, I would resign immediately,’” Donoghue said in a videotaped deposition. “There is no way I’m serving one minute under this guy, Jeff Clark.”
Trump relented when all the other lawyers threatened to quit.
“That letter is a murder-suicide pact,” Donoghue quoted Cipollone as saying. “It’s going to damage everyone who touches it.”
Poll: Majority of Americans following Jan. 6 hearings
A majority of Americans say they are following the House committee investigating the Capitol attack Jan. 6, 2021, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
The poll found 58% of Americans following the committee’s work, including 26% following “very closely” and 32% “somewhat closely,” according to the poll June 17 to 20 of 1,524 adults with a margin of error of 2.5%.
The jury is still out on whether charges are warranted against former President Donald Trump. A 59% majority said he bears a measure of responsibility for the attack. But respondents split evenly – 46% to 47% – over whether he should be charged criminally.
“It’s a toss-up,” said Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy. “There is no consensus.”