Jan. 6 Panel Says It Has New Evidence of Trump’s Pressure on Justice Dept.
WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plans to unveil new evidence Thursday about how President Donald J. Trump tried to manipulate the Justice Department to help him stay in power after he lost the 2020 election, aides said on Wednesday.
At its fifth public hearing this month, scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m., the panel plans to hear testimony from three top former Justice Department officials, who are expected to explain the ways Mr. Attorney General to topple the case. his defeat, an extraordinary example of a president interfering with the country’s law enforcement apparatus for his own personal ends.
Committee officials said the panel would describe how Mr Trump unsuccessfully prompted department officials to falsely declare widespread electoral fraud, file lawsuits in favor of his campaign and appoint a conspiracy theorist as special counsel to to investigate the elections. It will also trace his failed attempts to send false letters to state officials to undermine election results and, finally, to replace the acting attorney general, who refused to agree to his plans.
Trump eventually withdrew after agency officials threatened mass resignations, but the commission is presenting his actions as a critical part of a multi-layered effort by the former president to undermine the election.
The witnesses to testify are Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former Acting Attorney General; Richard P. Donoghue, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General; and Steven A. Engel, the former Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.
The themes of the House Committee hearings on January 6
Representative Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican and committee member, is expected to play a pivotal role in the questioning of witnesses and the presentation of evidence. He has hinted that the hearing could reveal more information about members of Congress seeking a pardon after Jan. 6.
The story of how Mr. Trump attempted to intervene in the workings of the Justice Department to keep himself in office has been well documented by both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Jan. 6 Committee, but aides to the House investigation said Thursday’s hearing contained new disclosures.
Time and again, after the election, department officials have told Mr Trump that his claims of widespread fraud were false, forcing him to withdraw some of his most extreme proposals.
A dramatic moment occurred at an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, when Jeffrey Clark, a little-known department attorney who had devised a strategy on how to keep Mr. Trump in power, suggested that the agency issue legal advice. Vice President Mike Pence advised him on what actions to take during the joint session of Congress to take place three days later, when lawmakers would gather for the official election marking the victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr. would confirm.
‘That’s an absurd idea,’ interrupted Mr Engel, according to the testimony he had given to the committee. “It is not the role of the Department of Justice to provide legal advice to legislative officials on the scope of their duties.”
Mr. Trump then took the floor and told Justice Department officials, who repeatedly told him that his claims of widespread fraud were false, that they were not allowed to talk to Mr. Pence.
“Nobody should be talking to the vice president here,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Engel.
Mr Trump would repeatedly pressure Mr Pence to try to undo the election results.
At that meeting, Mr. Trump also proposed to fire Mr. Rosen, who advised him that the 2020 election had not been stolen, and to replace him with Mr. Clark, who was willing to do his bidding.
“Sir, I would resign immediately,” said Mr Donoghue, according to a statement he made. “There’s no way I’ll be under this man for even one minute,” he said of Mr. Clark.
Mr. Trump then turned to Mr. Engel and said, “Steve, you weren’t going to resign, were you?” Mr. Engel replied: “Absolutely, Mr. President. You would leave me no choice.”
Justice Department officials also witnessed interactions between White House attorney Pat A. Cipollone and Mr. Trump. The committee has Mr. Cipollone has been called to testify publicly, but he has so far refused.
Mr. Cipollone opposed a plan by Mr. Clark, who wanted to distribute official letters to multiple state legislatures falsely warning them that the election may have been stolen and urging them to reconsider the certified election results.
“That letter this man wants to send — that letter is a murder-suicide pact,” Mr. Cipollone told Trump, according to Mr. Donoghue. “It will harm anyone who touches it. And we must have nothing to do with that letter. I never want to see that letter again.”
The panel is planning at least two more hearings for July, according to its chairman, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson. Those sessions are expected to detail how a mob of violent extremists attacked Congress and how Mr. Trump did nothing for more than three hours to call off the violence.