Former top DOJ officials detailed a tense Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting with former President Donald Trump and former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, in which officials threatened to resign en masse if Trump replaced former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark.
Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said that ahead of the meeting, he spoke with many of the assistant attorney generals in the department asking what they would do if Clark was appointed to replace Rosen. He said in a Jan. 6 Committee hearing Thursday that most quickly responded that they would resign.
Rosen later detailed some of the beginning of the meeting, including an exchange between him and the president on if the DOJ would act on election fraud claims.
“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.
“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,'” Rosen added.
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. Engel 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.'”
“You’re going to lose your entire department leadership. Every single AAG will walk out on you… within hours,” Donoghue said of what he told Trump. “I said, ‘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.'”
Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Counsel Steven Engel said he told the president if he fired Rosen, “the story is not going to be that the Department of Justice has found massive corruption that would have changed the results of the election. It’s going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark.”