U.S. Justice Department officials resist pressure on Donald Trump to overturn election, committee hears Jan. 6

Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election was thwarted at the last minute, in part by resistance from some of his top legal officials, who threatened to resign during a tense Oval Office meeting, a congressional committee has learned.

Three of the former president’s most senior lawyers testified on Thursday before a bipartisan panel investigating last year’s U.S. Capitol attack, presenting their reminiscences of the Trump administration’s final days.

The hearing focused on Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department to back up his false accusations of voter fraud, which the three said only failed because they threatened to resign en masse. The committee also revealed that several Trump allies demanded a pardon from the president after the conspiracy failed.

Adam Kinsinger, one of the two Republican members of the committee, said: “We have a great deal of gratitude for these people . . . they threatened to resign rather than undermine our democracy. Thanks to each of them, Trump President Pu’s coup failed.”

Regarding the pardon, Kinsinger added: “The only reason I know of asking for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime.”

The committee held five televised hearings as it released its findings into the events of January 6, 2021, when a group of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Congress to try to prevent Joe Biden from being declared president.

Thursday’s hearing was one of the most dramatic live sessions to date, largely thanks to detailed transcripts of Trump’s emergency meeting with some of his most senior legal officials on Sunday, Jan. 3.

Three people who attended that meeting — Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, his deputy; Steve Rosen, one of the president’s legal advisers Steve Engel testified before the committee.

They described how they sought to meet after Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark told Rosen that Trump intended to appoint him to replace Rosen. Rosen was particularly alarmed by the plan, he said, because Clark had been trying to convince his bosses to send letters to Biden-won swing states telling them the Justice Department had “significant concerns” about the vote.

Over the next few hours, they got promises from almost all assistant attorneys general that they would resign if Trump moved forward with his plan. That night, they went to the White House to confront Trump and Clark, warning that firing Rosen would be seriously counterproductive to the president.

Another White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone, told Trump at that meeting that his plan was “a murder-suicide pact,” according to Engel. Engel himself told Trump that if Clark was named attorney general, there would be so many resignations that he “would be left in the graveyard.”

Before the meeting, Donoghue told the committee that he had repeatedly told Trump that his claims about voter fraud were false. He added that one time he told a former president that the Justice Department couldn’t overturn an election result, to which the president replied, “That’s not what I want you to do.

“All I’m asking you to do is say it’s corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congress.”

The committee was particularly interested in Clark’s role in trying to overturn the election. Just before the hearing began, federal agents raided his home.

“Yesterday, more than a dozen DOJ law enforcement officers raided Jeff Clark’s house before dawn, left him in his pajamas on the street, and took took his electronic device. All because Jeff felt it was appropriate to investigate voter fraud.”

When Trump’s plot ultimately failed, the committee learned that many of those closest to him subsequently sought pardons. Several witnesses said the effort was led by Congressman Matt Gates, a Republican.

Eric Herschmann, another former Trump lawyer, said Gates was subsequently charged with child sex traffickingseeking forgiveness of “any and all things from the beginning until today.”

Other congressional Republicans seeking pardons include Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry, the committee was told.

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