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Former Justice Department officials detailed in a Jan. 6 committee hearing Thursday then-President Donald Trump’s relentless campaign to overturn the 2020 election, which almost led to mass resignations.
Testimony centered on a dramatic Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting in which Trump was considering firing former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen in favor of ex-DOJ official Jeffrey Clark.
Notably, Clark was pushing extremely hard for the DOJ to send a letter encouraging state governments to send alternative slates of electors to Washington, D.C.
Rosen detailed the meeting, along with fellow former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel.
“The president turned to me, and he said, ‘Well, one thing we know is you, Rosen, you aren’t going to do anything. You don’t even agree with the claims of election fraud,'” Rosen said in his testimony. “And then I said, ‘Well, Mr. President, you’re right that I’m not going to allow the Justice Department to do anything to try to overturn the election.'”
Later at the meeting, Donoghue said he told the president there would be mass resignations at the DOJ if Rosen was fired and replaced with Clark.
“I would resign immediately, I’m not working one minute for this guy, who I just declared was completely incompetent,” Donoghue said. “And so the president immediately turned to Mr. Enggel and he said, ‘Steve, you wouldn’t resign, would you?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely I would. Mr. President, you’d leave me no choice.’ And I said, ‘And we’re not the only ones.'”
Engel said he told Trump, “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.”
Also discussed at the hearing were Trump’s constant efforts to convince Rosen and his fellow DOJ officials to take actions to help him overturn the election. Rosen said Trump contacted him nearly every day from late December through early January.
Meanwhile, Rosen and Donoghue detailed how Clark refused to listen to the facts surrounding the false claims of election fraud. Even when confronted about the fact the letter he was pushing was not based in reality, “he doubled down” and “clung to” the idea that the election could have been stolen, Donoghue said.
According to Donoghue, Trump even went so far as to ask him and Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
Thursday’s hearing was the fifth in two weeks for the Jan. 6 Committee, which plans more hearings next month. So far, the committee has examined the events of Jan. 6 itself, Trump’s pressure on state officials, whether Trump actually realized he lost the election and more.
It’s possible the committee could investigate the role Republican members of Congress allegedly played in the attack in the future. It revealed Thursday that Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Scott Perry, R-Pa., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, all requested pardons after the attack.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a witness said, discussed pardons for members but did not ask for one.