Live coverage: Official’s notes show Trump wanted DOJ to declare election corrupt & More news

 

Justice Department officials’ unwavering resistance to former President Trump’s attempts to use their agency to legitimize his bid to remain in office will be the focus of Thursday’s hearing from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“In the remaining weeks of the transition, President Trump tried to pressure the Department of Justice and help him overturn the 2020 election,” a select committee aide told reporters Wednesday.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage below.

Cheney details DOJ official who drafted election letters to states

4:47 p.m.

Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said that Kenneth Klukowski, an attorney who helped draft a letter that would have asked Georgia officials not to certify their election results, had links to two of the top legal architects of Trump’s effort to overturn the election, Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman, and joined the DOJ with just a month left in the Trump administration.

Cheney said Klukowski joined the department on December 15, 2020 to work on Clark’s staff at the Civil Division. Clark and Klukowski drafted a letter that would have put states on notice that the DOJ was planning to investigate election fraud allegations.

Clark asked the acting attorney general and deputy attorney general at the time, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, to sign the letter in late December 2020. They refused, sparking a standoff at the department.

Trump later floated the idea of firing Rosen and installing Clark as the acting attorney general so that he could investigate his election fraud claims.

Donoghue and other DOJ and White House officials threatened to resign if the plan was carried out and Trump demurred.

Klukowski, who also previously worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget and is now in private practice, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

— Harper Neidig

Giuliani tells Jan. 6 panel he pushed for AG who would pursue Trump’s claims

4:18 p.m.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former legal adviser, told the select committee that he had pushed for someone to be installed as attorney general who would not be worried about using the Justice Department to pursue Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.

In a clip of Giuliani’s deposition with the committee that was played during Thursday’s hearing, the former New York City mayor said he had told others at the time that the DOJ should be led by someone not concerned by the potential reputational costs of challenging the 2020 election.

“Well 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,” Giuliani said in the clip. “Because Justice was filled with people like that.”

Trump’s pick to lead the department was Jeffrey Clark, who was the acting head of the DOJ Civil Division at the time, but the plan was abandoned when the department’s leadership threatened to resign en masse if the president went through with it.

— Harper Neidig

Official’s notes show Trump wanted DOJ to declare election corruption

4:11 p.m.

Notes from former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue displayed Tuesday at a House hearing on the Jan. 6 riot showed how former President Trump pushed the department to declare the 2020 election corrupt. 

Donoghue, who was the acting deputy attorney general at the time, took contemporaneous notes during a Dec. 27, 2020, phone call with Trump in which the former president repeatedly complained about the lack of action from the Department of Justice on claims of voter fraud that were found to be baseless. Those notes were on display at Thursday’s hearing of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol.

Donoghue recalled telling Trump that the Department of Justice “can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election.” 

Trump responded: “Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressman,” according to Donoghue’s notes. 

“That’s an exact quote from the president, yes,” Donoghue said at Thursday’s hearing. 

Another note from the phone call showed Trump kept pressing Donoghue despite being told repeatedly there was no evidence of widespread fraud. 

Trump told Donoghue the Justice Department was “obligated to tell people that this was an illegal corrupt election.” 

Donoghue, who was elevated to deputy acting attorney general after Bill Barr resigned as attorney general earlier in December 2020, described the Dec. 27 conversation with Trump as an “escalation” of the former president’s claims of voter fraud. 

The president “became more adamant that we weren’t doing our job,” Donoghue recalled, saying Trump had “this arsenal of allegations that he wanted to rely on.” 

Donoghue said he went “piece by piece” to debunk various claims Trump had raised, using witness interviews, investigations and documents to show how each allegation fell apart under scrutiny. Donoghue said he debunked claims about machine errors in Michigan, a truck driver transporting ballots to Pennsylvania, and video footage of votes being counted in Georgia. 

“I went piece by piece to say, ‘No that’s false, that’s not true,’ and to correct him really in a serial fashion,” Donoghue said. 

— Brett Samuels

Former acting AG gives glimpse inside Trump pressure campaign

3:54 p.m.

Former acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen on Thursday told the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots that former President Trump contacted him almost daily as he pressured the Justice Department to investigate debunked claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.  

Rosen said Trump called him or met virtually with him every day between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, with the exception of Christmas Day. 

“The common element of all of this was the president expressing his dissatisfaction that the Justice Department in his view had not done enough to investigate election fraud. But at different junctures other topics came up at different intervals,” Rosen testified. 

Trump at various points brought up appointing a special counsel for election fraud, Rosen said. Another request was for Rosen to meet with Rudy Giuliani, who was representing Trump in his campaign’s legal challenges.

Trump at one point suggesting sending letters from the Justice Department to state legislatures declaring the election was fraudulent. 

“The Justice Department declined all of those requests… because we did not think that they were appropriate based on the facts and the law as we understood them,” Rosen told the panel. 

— Brett Samuels

Sean Penn eyed at Jan. 6 hearing

3:37 p.m.

An unexpected visitor is witnessing history at the Jan. 6 committee hearing, as actor Sean Penn was eyed at Thursday’s televised event.

The “Milk” star and celebrity activist was seen grinning and shaking hands as he sat with Capitol Police officers at the fifth public hearing. 

A representative for Penn didn’t immediately return ITK’s request for comment.

The 61-year-old Academy Award winner and CORE founder was one of several performers who spoke out in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol last year, in a tweet to his 190,000 followers seemingly critical of then-President Trump.

“Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned,” Penn wrote at the time.

Thursday’s hearing is expected to focus on Trump’s pressure campaign at the Department of Justice ahead of the deadly attack.

— Judy Kurtz

Kinzinger gets his star turn on Jan. 6 panel

2:55 p.m.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the most outspoken critics of former President Trump, will get his star turn on the Jan. 6 select committee Thursday when he leads the panel in laying out the case that Trump tried to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) into overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The six-term Illinois congressman is one of two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, serving alongside Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the panel.

Both lawmakers broke with Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. Since then, they have not shied away from hammering the ex-president and his top allies in the party, including their own congressional colleagues.

— Mychael Schnell

Feds search home of former Trump DOJ official

1:47 p.m.

Federal law enforcement this week searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official accused of trying to use the agency to pursue former President Trump’s election fraud allegations, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.

According to The New York Times, Clark’s suburban Virginia home was searched on Wednesday, a day before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack was set to hear from former DOJ officials about the internal strife in the Trump administration following the 2020 election.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. did not immediately respond when asked for comment on the reports.

Clark was central to Trump’s pressure campaign at the DOJ and Trump even weighed installing him as attorney general, according to previously released material.

— Harper Neidig

Catch up while you’re waiting for hearing to begin

9 a.m.

Thursday’s hearing starts at 3 p.m. Catch up on the latest headlines while you’re waiting for it to start.

Jan. 6 panel to hear from DOJ officials who battled Trump’s ‘misuse’ of agency

Who is Jeffrey Clark, a key figure in Trump’s DOJ pressure campaign

Jan. 6 committee delays hearing schedule until July

Hoyer: More Jan. 6 hearings possible due to influx of new tips

Thompson says Jan. 6 committee redoing Mo Brooks subpoena

Five takeaways from Tuesday’s hearing

Jan. 6 hearings coverage archive

The Hill staff

 

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