Trump leaned on DOJ to help overturn 2020 election, witnesses tell Jan. 6 committee: recap

·34 min read

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 are the focus the House Jan. 6 committee's hearing Thursday.

What happened at today's hearing:

  • How 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 testified?: 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 – described the Oval Office showdown over removing Rosen.

  • Feds descend on ex-Justice Department official's home: Federal authorities on Wednesday were at the home of former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark.

  • Orderly transition: In testimony to the committee, former Attorney General Bill Barr said he initiated an investigation into election fraud because he didn't believe an orderly transition was possible without it.

  • White House lawyer's warning: Trump White House Counsel John Herschmann said he told former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark his first act as attorney general would be to commit a felony if he went through with a plan to tell six swing states to send alternate slates of Trump electors to Congress.

  • Who are the GOP lawmakers who sought Trump pardons?: The committee has alleged that some GOP lawmakers asked for pardons over their actions related to Jan. 6. Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said Thursday's hearing would close with video testimony from three Trump staff members who would identify the lawmakers.

  • 'Just say it was corrupt': Richard Donoghue, a senior Justice Department official, testified that Trump leaned on DOJ to declare voter fraud in the 2020 election. "Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," Trump said, according to Donoghue.

  • Pleading the Fifth: Former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was asked during a deposition with committee investigators about letters to Georgia officials about overturning the election.

  • Plan to seize voting machines: In a meeting with DOJ officials on New Year’s Eve, an 'agitated' President Donald Trump told them to name a special counsel and seize voting machines from states, said former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

  • A Great Resignation: Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he told Trump that installing Jeffrey Clark as attorney general would trigger "hundreds and hundreds" of resignations in the Justice Department.

  • Pardon me: The committee played testimony claiming Reps. Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks sought pardons from former President Donald Trump.

Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, left, and Richard Donoghue, former acting Deputy Attorney General, before the start of the public hearing before the committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol on June 23, 2022 in Washington DC.
Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, left, and Richard Donoghue, former acting Deputy Attorney General, before the start of the public hearing before the committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol on June 23, 2022 in Washington DC.

Cheney addresses Americans 'deceived' by Trump

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP vice chair of the committee investigating Jan. 6., ended the panel’s fifth hearing with a message for the millions of Americans who put their trust in former President Donald Trump.

Cheney said more than a dozen Republicans have contradicted Trump’s version of events, testifying about “what actually happened in the weeks before Jan. 6.”

Some of the witnesses, including those who will testify at future hearings, worked for Trump on his campaign or in his administration. Others, she said, have been conservative Republicans for their entire careers.

“It can be difficult to accept that President Trump abused your trust, that he deceived you,” Cheney said. “Many will invent excuses to ignore that fact. But that is a fact. I wish it weren't true. But it is.”

- Maureen Groppe

Clark pleaded the Fifth "over 125 times," Kinzinger says

Rep. Adam Kinzinger said former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 125 times while being questioned.

"Forget the facts and leave the rest of President Trump's congressional friends. Mr. Clark refused to cooperate with this committee," Kinzinger said.

- Merdie Nzanga

Kinzinger: Trump “willing to sacrifice our republic” in the name of conspiracy theories

The most senior leadership of the Justice Department repeatedly told President Trump through December and up to Jan. 6 that “the conspiracy theories were false,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in his closing statement to the committee.

“We’re here today because the facts were irrelevant to President Trump. It was about protecting his very real power and his very fragile ego, even if it required recklessly undermining our entire electoral system by wildly casting baseless doubt upon it,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger added: “He was willing to sacrifice our republic to prolong his presidency. I can imagine no more dishonorable act from a president.”

- Katherine Swartz 

Trump hinted at “blanket pardon” for everyone involved in Jan 6

John McEntee, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, told the Jan. 6 Committee in a deposition that Trump mentioned a “blanket pardon” for those involved on Jan. 6.

“I know he had hinted at a blanket pardon for the Jan. 6 thing for anybody,” McEntee said. McEntee specified that the pardon actually went beyond just Jan. 6th. “But I think he had for all the staff and everyone involved. Not with Jan. 6 but just before he left office I know he had talked about that.”

- Kenneth Tran

Rosen spoke 'more or less nonstop' with top officials on Jan. 6

On Jan. 6, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was on the phone “more or less nonstop” with top administration officials and congressional leaders as rioters stormed the Capitol, he testified.

The basic thrust of the calls from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other lawmakers was that they needed help with the “dire situation,” Rosen said.

The Justice Department ended up sending more than 500 agents and officers from the FBI, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help.

Rosen said he spoke twice with Vice President Mike Pence, once in a one-on-one call and then as part of a 7 p.m. conference call advising officials that it appeared order was close to being restored.

- Maureen Groppe

Brooks, Gaetz sought pardons from White House

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., emailed the White House on Jan. 11, 2021, recommending that President Donald Trump give pardons to “every congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”

Former White House Senior Advisor Eric Herschman said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., also requested a pardon. “The general tone was, ‘We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things.’” Herschman said the request was broad, for “any and all things,” and explained that not even former President Richard Nixon provided such blanket pardons.

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to the White House Chief of Staff, told the committee that Gaetz and Brooks both advocated for a blanket pardon. “Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December,” Hutchinson said.

- Erin Mansfield

DOJ official spoke to Pence, lawmakers on Jan. 6 – but not Trump

Leaders of the Justice Department said they spoke with Vice President Mike Pence, other White House officials, and members of the congressional leadership as pro-Trump rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

One official they did not hear from: President Donald Trump.

“I spoke to a number of senior White House officials," said former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. "But not the president.”

- David Jackson

'Hundreds and hundreds” of DOJ resignations if Clark appointed, Donoghue says

In a White House meeting, President Trump asked Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue what he would do if he fired Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and appointed Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark.

"I’d resign immediately. I’m not working for one minute with this guy,” Donoghue said he told Trump. Steve Engel, an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, also told Trump he would resign.

But the two weren’t the only ones to threaten resignation. Already almost every assistant attorney general had committed to resigning within hours if Clark was appointed. Beyond them, Donoghue guessed that many US attorneys in districts across the country would have resigned, triggering a domino effect of resignations.

“Mr. President, within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire justice department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you," Donoghue said he told Trump.

- Katherine Swartz

Donoghue told Trump that Clark was “not competent”

Then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue recalled telling former President Donald Trump that Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark was not qualified to serve as attorney general.

“It was a heated conversation,” said Donoghue. “So I said, Mr. President, you’re talking about putting a man in that seat, who has never tried a criminal case, who has never conducted a criminal investigation.” Clark told Trump he could have a “nationwide criminal investigation conducted,” but Donoghue said that was “impossible. It’s absurd. It’s not going to happen and it’s going to fail."

”It’s not going to happen," Donoghue said. "He’s not competent."

- Kenneth Tran

“What do I have to lose,” Trump asked DOJ officials

In an Oval Office meeting about whether to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, President Donald Trump asked the room, “What do I have to lose?” said Richard Donoghue, who was Acting Deputy Attorney General.

“I began to explain to him what he had to lose, and what the country had to lose, and what the department had to lose,” Donoghue said.

Eventually, Donoghue said the conversation returned to whether Clark had the qualifications to run the Department of Justice. Donoghue said Clark had never tried a criminal case in his career.

- Erin Mansfield

Justice Department officials: We were prepared to resign over Trump's actions

Justice Department officials went into detail about how they and numerous other DOJ leaders planned to resign if President Donald Trump appointed Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general to pursue far-out voter fraud claims.

"They would leave, they would resign en masse if the president made that change in the department leadership," said DOJ official Richard Donoghue, who included himself on the list of those prepared to walk.

The threat apparently got Trump to back off his plan to appoint Clark.

- David Jackson

Rosen: Trump offered Clark acting AG job

Jeffrey Clark, the assistant attorney general who wanted the Justice Department to push states to send alternate electors to Washington, told acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that Trump offered him Rosen’s job at the beginning of January.

“I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate,” Rosen said. Rosen said he wanted to talk directly to Trump to try to convince the president not to “go down the wrong path” that Clark was advocating.

“I did not want for the Department of Justice to be put in a posture where it would be doing things that were not consistent with the truth, were not consistent with its own appropriate role, or were not consistent with the Constitution,” Rosen testified.

- Maureen Groppe

Donoghue to Perry's Italian theory: "pure insanity."

Former Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue dismissed a conspiracy theory about Italians switching votes in the 2020 election as "pure insanity."

Mark Meadows received messages from Rep. Scott Perry suggesting that an Italian defense contractor uploaded software into a satellite that switched votes from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

"Why can't we just work with the Italian government?," Perry asked Meadows.

- Merdie Nzanga

Trump: “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do”

President Donald Trump’s pursuit of a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Joe Biden exemplified “the lengths to which President Trump would go to stay in power,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said.

Trump consistently called on the Department of Justice to investigate these theories, telling Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in a phone call that “you guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” according to Rosen’s handwritten notes.

- Katherine Swartz

Department of Defense officials called Italian counterparts

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows held onto a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites were altering votes that eventually found its way to the Department of Defense.

“The whole thing was very, very murky at best and the video was absurd, but that we at the Department [of Justice] were not going to have anything to do with it.” Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified to the committee about the conpsiracy theory. “And DOD should make up its own mind as to what it’s going to do.”

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller called his counterpart to follow up on the conspiracy theory. “The ask for him was can you call the defense attaché Rome and find out what the heck is going on?” said Miller. “Because I’m getting all these weird crazy reports.”

- Kenneth Tran

Meadows pressured Rosen to meet with Italian conspiracy theorist

In consecutive phone calls, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressured former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to meet with Brad Johnson, a conspiracy theorist from Italy about a video alleging that satellites in that country had changed votes.

“I told him this whole thing about Italy had been debunked and that should be the end of that, and I certainly wasn’t going to meet with this person,” Rosen said. He also told Meadows, “If he has real evidence, which this video doesn’t show, he can walk into an FBI field office in the United States. There’s 55 of them.”

A few minutes later, Rosen said Meadows called back to complain and said: “I didn’t tell you but this fellow Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani, and Mr. Giuliani is really offended that you think they have to go to an FBI field office. That’s insulting. So couldn’t you just have the FBI or you meet with these guys?”

- Erin Mansfield

Ex-Justice Department officials: Meadows pressured us to investigate Georgia and New Mexico

The role of then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the Donald Trump election protest keeps coming up.

The Justice Department officials who resisted Trump's demands to investigate false voter fraud claims told the committee that Meadows pressured them to investigate dubious claims of fraud in Georgia and New Mexico.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said Meadows' text messages on these issues is how he learned that the Trump White House was working with Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark to overturn the election.

The committee is trying to interview Meadows about his actions.

- David Jackson

Donoghue told Trump the facts wouldn’t change

During a New Year’s Eve meeting with President Donald Trump, acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he told the president he wouldn’t get the outcome he desired by replacing the top Justice Department leadership.

“The United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence and law, and those are not going to change,” Donoghue said he told Trump. “So, you can have whatever leadership you want, but the department's position is not going to change.”

Trump was considering getting rid of Donoghue and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen while elevating Jeffrey Clark, the assistant attorney general who wanted to encourage states to appoint alternate electors.

- Maureen Groppe

Trump told Justice Department to seize voting machines from states

In a last-minute meeting with Justice Department leadership on New Year’s Eve, President Donald Trump asked the department to appoint a special counsel and to seize voting machines from states.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told the committee Trump was “more agitated” than in prior meetings, and further agitated when he told Trump the department wouldn’t seize machines from states.

“We had seen nothing improper in regards to the voting machines,” Rosen said, adding that there was no legal authority either for the DOJ to seize machines from states.

- Katherine Swartz

Trump promised Sidney Powell special counsel position to investigate fraud

Less than a month before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, former President Donald Trump promised Sidney Powell a position as special counsel on his legal team to investigate claims of election fraud.

“Friday, he had asked me to be special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence.” Powell told the committee. She said Trump became increasingly frustrated by the lack of any “law enforcement by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law and our republic.”

- Kenneth Tran

Who is Kenneth Klukowski?

Kenneth A. Klukowski is a constitutional lawyer who served on former President Donald Trump’s transition team, in the White House Office of Management and Budget, and as senior counsel in the Department of Justice’s civil division, according to his current law firm’s website.

The Jan. 6 committee wrote in its subpoena to Klukowski that he worked with and communicated with former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark about the letter Clark wanted to send to legislators in Georgia and other states.

Clark also contacted Klukowski before he went to a White House meeting where he sought to oust Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, the subpoena said.

- Erin Mansfield

Clark pleads the Fifth

In a deposition with committee investigators, former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark refused to answer a question about the letters to Georgia officials to overturn the election.

Asked about the letters, Clark invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

- Merdie Nzanga

Justice Department official: Jeffrey Clark conducted his own investigation

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told the committee he was shocked to learn that former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark had conducted his own investigation of Trump's dubious voter fraud claims.

Donoghue said he confronted Clark about why he was looking into allegations that prosecutors had already determined to be unfounded, and added that it looked like Justice Department meddling in local elections.

"He got very defensive," Donoghue told the committee about Clark,  and "spewed out" conspiracy theories that had been spun by Trump.

- David Jackson

Donoghue describes 'contentious meeting' with Clark

During a “very contentious meeting” with former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he told him the letter Clark wanted the Justice Department to send to swing states was meddling in the outcome of an election.

When Clark sent him the draft letter, Donoghue said, he read it twice to make sure he understood the intent: “Because it was so extreme to me, I had a hard time getting my head around it initially."

Not only were the actions Clark wanted to take outside of the scope of the Justice Department, Donoghue said, they were “not based on fact.”

“This was actually contrary to the facts, as developed by department investigations over the last several weeks and months,” he testified.

- Maureen Groppe

Donoghue swats claim of voting fraud in Pennsylvania

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., called Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to allege that more votes had been certified by the secretary of state than had been cast by voters in his home state.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania investigated the claims, but after a few days declared there was “no foundation for concern,” Donoghue said.

Online information about the number of votes cast at that point was incomplete because four counties had not yet uploaded their voter data, which caused the discrepancy between votes cast and the number of votes certified.

- Katherine Swartz

Perry pushed Mark Meadows to elevate Clark in DOJ

Perry pushed former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to promote former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark within the Justice Department, text messages the committee revealed Thursday show.

“Mark, you should call Jeff [Clark]. I just got off the phone with him.” Perry told Meadows that Clark had to be higher up in the DOJ to act on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. “And he explained to me why the Principal Deputy won’t work, especially with the FBI. They will view it as not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done.

Meadows told Perry that he will work on elevating Clark. Perry then texted back telling Meadows he sent him an “updated file” in Signal, an encrypted messaging app.

- Kenneth Tran

Clark had unauthorized meeting with Trump before Christmas

Former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark had a meeting with Trump just before Christmas, in violation of Department of Justice policies and much to his superiors’ chagrin, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified.

“You didn’t tell me about it, it wasn’t authorized, and you didn’t even tell me after the fact,” Rosen said he told Clark the day after Christmas. “This is not appropriate.” Rosen said Clark told him it was unplanned, expressed regret and assured he would make sure he notified appropriate department leaders in the future.

Steven Engel, who was the assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel, told the committee that when it comes to sensitive matters, only top Department officials are supposed to talk to the White House in order to make sure investigations are “free from either the reality or the appearance of political interference.”

- Erin Mansfield

Giuliani: Trump wanted DOJ officials who weren’t ‘frightened’

Rep. Adam Kinzinger recited evidence of lawmakers meeting Trump at the White House Dec. 21, 2020, to discuss the election and then Rep. Scott Perry returning the next day to introduce Clark to Trump.

Trump’s campaign lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, described in a videotaped deposition why the president sought to give former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark election-related responsibilities.

“Beyond the president, I do recall saying to people that somebody should be put in charge of the Justice Department who isn’t frightened of what’s going to be done to their reputation because the Justice Department was full of people like that,” Giuliani said.

Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general Trump sought to replace with Clark, said he wasn’t worried about his reputation when rejecting baseless claims of election fraud.

“No, not at all,” Rosen said.

- Bart Jansen

Donoghue took notes during Trump call

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he took notes during a Dec. 27, 2020 phone call with Trump during which Trump pressed Donoghue and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen about an “arsenal of allegations” of election fraud he wanted investigated.

Donoghue said he grabbed a notepad from his wife’s nightstand when Trump mentioned an allegation he hadn’t yet heard. The committee displayed photos of some of those notes as Donoghue testified that he repeatedly tried to explain to Trump that the Justice Department has a limited role in state elections.

“The bottom line was if a state ran their election in such a way that it was defective, that is to the state, or Congress, to correct,” Donoghue said he told Trump. “It is not for the Justice Department to step in.”

- Maureen Groppe

Trump to Justice Department: 'Just say it was corrupt'

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue repeated to the committee one of the most famous Donald Trump lines of the entire 2020 election saga.

"Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," Trump told Justice Department officials, Donoghue testified.

The committee is trying to show that Trump didn't care about the facts – he just wanted officials to declare voter fraud in order to justify his efforts to overturn the election.

- David Jackson

Ex-Justice officials: Trump spent hours lobbing baseless election fraud claims

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told the committee about a two-hour meeting with Trump on Dec. 27 where the former president threw an “arsenal of allegations” of election fraud at Donoghue to be addressed.

Donoghue said he was “very blunt” with Trump about the evidence, denying each of Trump's baseless claims.

One claim was over a private report that alleged a 68% voting error rate from voting machines in Antrim County, Michigan. Donoghue told Trump that in the county there was only one error, at a rate of .0063%.

- Katherine Swartz

Kinzinger criticizes fellow Republicans for amplifying Trump's false claims

Kinzinger criticized his Republican colleagues in the House for amplifying Trump’s false claims of election fraud despite Barr saying “publicly that President Trump’s claims had no merit.” The committee played video clips of Republican congressmen who repeated Trump’s claims.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said there was "widespread evidence" of election fraud. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., told supporters that the courts were "pathetic."

“I’m joining with the fighters in the Congress and we are going to object to electors from states who didn’t run clean elections,” Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., yelled to supporters at a Turning Point summit.

- Kenneth Tran

Trump seized on report blaming Dominion Voter Systems in Michigan

Trump used the results of a report released Dec. 15 about Dominion Voter Systems, including a widely debunked theory about errors and bias in Antrim County, Michigan, to try to convince Department of Justice officials he won the election.

“He was adamant that the report must be accurate, that it proved that the election was defective, that he in fact won the election, and the Department should be using that report to tell the American people that the results were not trustworthy,” former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified Thursday.

Donoghue said the bulk of that conversation focused on Antrim County and the Dominion report by the Allied Security Operations Group.

- Erin Mansfield

Kinzinger: Trump's 'total disregard' for the Constitution to be 'exposed'

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, addressed his colleagues at Thursday's hearing about Trump and his allies' steps to overrule the 2020 election.

"Imagine the country's top prosecutor, power to open investigations or crimes and seek imprisonment. Imagine that official pursuing the agenda of the other party instead of that of the American people as a whole," Kinzinger said, addressing his Republican colleagues. He added, "And if you're a Democrat, imagine that the other way around? Today, President Trump's total disregard for the Constitution and as both will be fully exposed. "

- Merdie Nzanga

Committee to unveil names of Republicans who sought Jan. 6 pardons

The committee has provided a preview of coming attractions later today: The names of Republican lawmakers who sought presidential pardons over their actions related to Jan, 6.

Committee member Liz Cheney said the committee will close the hearing with video testimony from three Trump staff members.

"They will identify certain of the members of Congress who contacted the White House after January 6th to seek presidential pardons for their conduct," Cheney said.

Earlier this month, Cheney announced that Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., had sought a pardon; Perry denied it.

- David Jackson

Rosen: Trump urged DOJ officials repeatedly to investigate election fraud

Jeffrey Rosen, who served as acting attorney general during the final month of the Trump administration, said Trump called or met with Rosen and his deputy nearly every day after he started in the post on Dec. 23, 2020.

Rosen said Trump thought the Justice Department hadn’t done enough to investigate claims of election fraud. Trump asked Rosen about appointing a special counsel, asked Rosen to meet with election lawyer Rudy Giuliani and asked whether the department would file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court.

“The Justice Department declined all of those requests that I was just referencing because we did not think that they were appropriate based on the facts and the law as we understood them,” Rosen said.

- Bart Jansen

Witnesses: Jeffrey Clark wanted to be attorney general to help Trump

The committee is showing video of witnesses trashing Clark, saying he sought the job of attorney general for the purpose of helping Trump steal the election.

One Trump aide described a Clark-proposed letter about fictional claims of election fraud as a "murder-suicide pact."

Both the committee and its witnesses will spend the day critiquing Clark's role in the plot that is also the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

- David Jackson

White House lawyer told Clark he would be committing a felony

Former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann was incredulous when he heard former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark wanted to tell six swing states they should send alternate electors to Congress to support Trump.

Trump was considering making Clark attorney general after former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen wouldn’t go along with Clark’s plan. After unleashing some expletives, Herschmann said in videotaped testimony, he told Clark he’d just admitted that his first act as attorney general would be to commit a felony.

“You’re clearly the right candidate for this job,” Herschmann recalled sarcastically telling Clark.

- Maureen Groppe

Kinzinger: Trump pressured Justice Department to call election “corrupt”

In his opening statement to the committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., spoke about the pressures Trump put on the Department of Justice leadership in a “last-ditch scheme” to keep Congress from certifying results of the 2020 election.

“If the department could just lend its credibility to the conspiracies, people would have the justification they needed to spread the big lie,” Kinzinger said of Trump’s intentions.

Kinzinger also said: “So President Trump ultimately wanted the Department of Justice to say the election was ‘corrupt,’ and ‘leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.’ As you will hear today, the department’s top leadership refused.”

- Katherine Swartz

Barr wasn’t confident in orderly transition if DOJ didn’t investigate fraud

The Jan. 6 Committee revealed more from the deposition of former Attorney General Bill Barr. Under normal circumstances, allegations of fraud would be investigated long after an election, but Barr authorized the Department of Justice early on to investigate fraud.

Asked by the committee why, Barr said it was “the reasonable thing” to have a position on whether or not the 2020 election was fraudulent. “The fact that I put myself in the position that I could say we had looked at this and didn’t think there was fraud was really important to moving things forward,” said Barr.

Barr thought if there was no clear position from the DOJ, he wasn’t sure “we would have had a transition at all.”

- Kenneth Tran

Cheney highlights letter from Jeffrey Clark intended for Georgia officials

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., highlighted a letter that Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark and his counsel Kenneth Klukowski wrote in preparation to have acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue sign.

The draft letter, intended for officials in Georgia, said the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the State of Georgia” and recommended that the state legislature “convene in special session” to consider approving a new slate of elections.

Cheney said the text of the letter was similar to what the committee has already revealed in communications from Trump attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani.

- Erin Mansfield

Thompson: Trump ‘brazen’ in trying to hold onto power

The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, opened the hearing saying three former Justice Department officials would describe former Trump's urging them to call the election corrupt, to appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged fraud and to urge six state legislatures to alter their results.

“Together these public servants resisted Mr. Trump’s effort to misuse the Justice Department as part of his plan to hold onto power,” said Thompson, D-Miss. “It was a brazen attempt to use the Justice Department to advance the president’s personal political agenda.”

- Bart Jansen

Actor Sean Penn attends hearing

Actor and filmmaker Sean Penn sat next to Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department Officer, Michael Fanone, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Sgt. Aquilino Gonell in the front row of the hearing room Thursday.

Penn, who was recently in Ukraine shooting a documentary for Vice about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, has publicly condemned the Trump administration in the past.

- Chelsey Cox

Actor Sean Penn enters the hearing room before the start of the public hearing to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol on June 23, 2022 in Washington DC.
Actor Sean Penn enters the hearing room before the start of the public hearing to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol on June 23, 2022 in Washington DC.

Trump: Jan. 6 insurrectionists were "smart" and "angry" over election

Trump defended the Jan. 6 rioters shortly after the 2021 insurrection, calling them "smart" and "angry" over the events of the 2020 presidential election.

“Well, it was a sad day, but it was a day where there was great anger in our country,” Trump told a documentary filmmaker whose video has been subpoenaed by the special congressional committee investigating Jan. 6.

CNN – whose parent company owns Discovery Plus, which will release the documentary – is broadcasting some of the video clips.

In an interview, Trump also said regarding the rioters: “People went to Washington primarily because they were angry with an election that they think was rigged."

Claiming only "a very small portion" of his supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol that day, Trump said: "They were angry from the standpoint of what happened in the election. Because they’re smart, and they see and they saw what happened, and I believe that that was a big part of what happened on Jan. 6.”

- David Jackson

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

Documentarian who filmed Trump gives committee deposition

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.

More: Who has been subpoenaed so far by the Jan. 6 committee?

Jeffrey Clark declined to be fully interviewed by a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Jeffrey Clark declined to be fully interviewed by a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

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.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will succeed Attorney General William Barr when he steps down Dec. 23.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will succeed Attorney General William Barr when he steps down Dec. 23.

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.

A video of former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue is shown on a screen during the second hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 13, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
A video of former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue is shown on a screen during the second hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 13, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jan 6 hearing focuses on Trump's planned DOJ shake-up: live updates