Trump’s attempt to corrupt the Department of Justice
During its hearing on Thursday, June 23, the committee presented testimony from a panel of Republican witnesses each appointed to the Justice Department under former President Trump: former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; deputy acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue; and Richard Engel, the former head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Each witness previously testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year when that committee was investigating claims of Trump’s abuses of power at the Department of Justice—in other words, filing legal briefs in support of election fraud conspiracy theory and the forced resignation of a federal prosecutor in Georgia, Byung “BJ” Pak.
All of what Rosen, Donoghue, and Engel established before that Senate panel emerged in stark relief last week with the Jan. 6 probe. But it was new testimony that exposed how truly precipitous the weeks after the 2020 election were and how close the nation came to nearly having the Department of Justice falsely proclaim there was widespread voter fraud despite a total lack of evidence to support that assertion shopped by Trump, members of his administration, and his attorneys like Rudy Giuliani.
Trump harangued leadership at the Department of Justice with daily calls and commenced a slew of meetings where he urged Rosen and Donoghue to say that the Department of Justice had “an obligation to tell people that it was an illegal, corrupt election,” Donoghue testified under oath.
Rosen testified that Trump even asked him directly: “Why don't you guys just seize [voting] machines?”
When it became clear to Trump that he was failing to gain traction with leadership, Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, helped usher forward Jeffrey Clark, a low-level environmental attorney and ex-lobbyist appointed to the Department of Justice in 2018.
Perry and Clark shared the meritless view that the election was rigged. Perry actively raised Clark’s profile to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, text messages have shown.
Clark, who pleaded the Fifth Amendment to over 100 questions posed by the select committee, threatened to take Rosen’s job—with Trump’s urging—after Rosen refused to distribute a letter to state officials urging they overturn the election, the former attorney general testified. Emails unveiled last week also revealed how Meadows emphatically pushed to get Clark involved.
Three days before the insurrection during a tense meeting at the White House, Trump’s plan to have Clark installed was called off only when Rosen, Donoghue, Engel, and other attorneys general threatened a mass resignation.
“I said, 'We're not the only ones. No one cares if I resign. But you're going to lose every single aide. Your entire department of leadership will walk out within hours … Within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds of resignations,” Donoghue testified last week.
Engel said he told Trump on Jan. 3: “Look, all anyone is going to think about when they see this ... is that you went through two attorneys general in two weeks until you found the environmental guy to sign this thing. The story is not going to be that the Justice Department has found massive corruption that would have changed the result of the election. It's going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark.”
Rejected Draft Letter From ... by Daily Kos
The committee revealed too that several Republican lawmakers sought pardons from Trump after the insurrection.
Deposition by Trump’s former personnel director, John McEntee, and testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mark Meadows, divulged that pardons were requested by Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Brooks texted a letter to CBS reporter Robert Costa after the June 23 hearing that he said he sent to Molly Michael, a Trump White House aide, on Jan. 11, 2021.
Brooks told CBS he requested pardons on behalf of every member of Congress who objected to the certification of the 2020 election because he feared “Socialist Democrats" would target Republicans with “sham charges” once President-elect Joe Biden was in the White House.
Hutchinson testified too that Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio discussed pardons with Meadows but did not ask for one directly. She also said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene floated receiving a pardon to the White House Counsel office, but those details were less clear.
The request from Gaetz, Hutchinson, and McEntee came in December and was for a “blanket pardon.” Notably, the Department of Justice had just opened an investigation into Gaetz for sex trafficking around this time after his friend and former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg told investigators he and Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
Gaetz has not been charged.
All of the lawmakers have denied any wrongdoing. Former White House Counsel Eric Herschmann told the select committee he and others argued vehemently against Trump issuing the pardons before he left office. Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told CNN last week it wasn’t a crime to request a pardon and that of course, no one could be prosecuted for merely asking for a pardon. But, Raskin said, common sense “would indicate some consciousness of guilt or some fear that you could be prosecuted for what you did.”
The fake elector scheme was laid out
Coupled with the pressure campaign at the Department of Justice was the campaign that Trump and attorneys John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Cleta Mitchell, Jenna Ellis, and others advanced against election officials to declare the 2020 election results false, the committee said.
The chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, had her testimony to the committee aired publicly, including her disclosure that Trump called her after the election and asked her to ensure that his electors were in place.
It was the Trump campaign that took “the lead” on this, she said. The RNC was “just helping them in that role,” she testified.
Arizona Republican House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers also tied the fake elector scheme to Trump directly, testifying under oath that Trump and Giuliani asked him to hold a hearing at the Arizona statehouse where false claims of voter fraud could be announced.
The evidence didn’t warrant this, Bowers said.
“I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” he added.
John Eastman, the author of a six-point strategy to have then-Vice President Mike Pence overturn the results, remarked to Bowers after he refused to go along with the plan: “Just do it and let the courts sort it out.”
Bowers had asked repeatedly for proof of fraud and not a single member of Trump’s campaign could provide it.
Giuliani even remarked to Bowers: “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
This testimony was crucial for the committee since it strongly supports one of their core arguments: Trump knew his bid to overturn the results of the election was premised on false information and so too did his attorneys.
This day of testimony was also joined by the release of text messages involving Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and his attempt to pass off a slate of Trump’s bunk electors from Michigan and Wisconsin to Pence on Jan. 6.
Pence was moments away from presiding over a Joint Session of Congress when one of Johnson’s aides sent a text to a staffer in Pence’s office and asked to make the hand-off.
“Do not give that to him,” the Pence staffer, Chris Hodgson, replied.
Trump had squeezed the veep for several days at this point, even spending the wee hours of Jan. 6 tweeting at the vice president. Pence’s counsel and aides had been inundated with requests by Trump’s campaign to have Pence overturn the results.
The publication of the Johnson text messages triggered the Republican senator to commence a dizzying display: First Johnson claimed he did not know who sent the slates to his office. Then he said it was a staff-to-staff affair, and nothing he was part of. Then he admitted to knowing where the package came from: Wisconsin attorney Jim Troupis.
Troupis pushed to have Wisconsin’s results overturned for Trump. But Johnson also said last week that he didn’t know what Troupis had sent in the package. Johnson has since called the committee a “witch hunt.”
The intense pressure Trump foisted on state officials reached high and low and no one was exempt. The committee heard a heartbreaking first-hand account of the harassment and intimidation veteran election worker Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, experienced as a result of Trump’s incessant promotion of conspiracy theories and lies about the election outcome.
Trump and Giuliani openly accused Moss and her mother of stuffing ballots into suitcases at the State Farm Arena in Georgia. Those accusations triggered a wave of terror that swept into their lives, utterly upending their existence for the last two years. Moss and her mother received death threats and were told: “Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920,” a clear nod to public lynch mobs of yore lead against people of color by racist whites.
The committee also learned that:
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Ron Johnson changes his story, admits involvement in effort to hand Mike Pence fake elector slates
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