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US justice officials outline Trump’s ‘brazen’ takeover bid

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 Lawmakers investigating the attack on the US Capitol on Thursday detailed Donald Trump s efforts to enlist the Justice Department in his plan to overturn his loss to Joe Biden attempting to replace his head with a loyalist who was meddling in the outcome of a presidential election In the fifth hearing of its year long hellip
US justice officials outline Trump’s ‘brazen’ takeover bid

NNN: Lawmakers investigating the attack on the US Capitol on Thursday detailed Donald Trump’s efforts to enlist the Justice Department in his plan to overturn his loss to Joe Biden, attempting to replace his head with a loyalist who was “meddling in the outcome of a presidential election. ”

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In the fifth hearing of its year-long investigation into the January 2021 insurrection, the House panel outlined Trump’s pressure on officials to amplify his false claims that his presidency had been stolen by widespread voter fraud. .

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“Donald Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate. He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies, to call the election baseless corrupt,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson said.

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Lawmakers reviewed tensions between government lawyers in the days before the violence, as Trump tried to install his own man at the top of the department.

“It was a blatant attempt to use the Justice Department to further the president’s personal political agenda,” Thompson said.

Underscoring the intensity of Trump’s pressure on the department, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said that in late December 2020 and early January 2021, the president contacted him almost daily.

“At one point, he raised the issue of having a special attorney for voter fraud…. he raised whether the Justice Department would file suit in the Supreme Court,” Rosen said.

“At a couple of junctures, there was hesitation about making a public statement or holding a press conference.”

The DOJ pursued a spate of Trump voter fraud claims, but Rosen said officials were presented with no evidence.

Showdown in the Oval Office At this point, Trump began elevating a little-known mid-level department official named Jeffrey Clark, who embraced the outgoing president’s discredited theories.

Clark prepared a letter to the Georgia state assembly, the hearing said, falsely claiming the department had found evidence of widespread voter fraud, but other officials refused to sign it. Other letters had also been prepared for other states.

Trump White House counsel Eric Herschmann told the committee in a videotaped statement that he had informed Clark that his plan would amount to “committing a felony.”

Trump pushed to install Clark as attorney general over Rosen and have Clark reverse the department’s conclusion that there was no evidence of fraud that could influence the election.

But Trump was forced to back down by a rebellion high up in the department at a Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting described in detail by witnesses.

Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, another high-ranking official named Steven Engel, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatened to resign en masse, warning they would take “hundreds and hundreds” of top federal prosecutors with them if Trump continued. Go ahead with your plan. .

“I indicated that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as attorney general. He has never been a criminal lawyer. He has never conducted a criminal investigation in his life,” Donoghue recalls telling Trump.

Donoghue said he told Clark, “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we call you when there’s an oil spill?

He also recalled warning Clark that his mission in pushing Trump’s voter fraud claims was “nothing less than the United States Department of Justice’s meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.”

‘Facts, evidence and law’ Under questioning live, Donoghue confirmed that he had rejected Trump when the then president insisted that the department could simply “say the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me.”

Rosen said Trump had asked him during a Dec. 31 meeting to seize state governments’ voting machines, and Rosen again refused, explaining there was no justification for doing so.

Donoghue recalled that Trump was agitated, telling both officials that he had been advised to fire them and promote Clark.

“I replied, as I think I have done before… ‘Mr. President, you must have the leadership you want, but understand the role of the United States Department of Justice on facts, evidence, and the law. And that is not going to change'”.

Clark did not appear before the committee and asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself more than 100 times during his testimony.

In a coda to the headline-grabbing affair, federal investigators searched Clark’s home on Wednesday.

The federal prosecutor in Washington did not comment on the reason for the action, but the Center for Renewing America, where Clark works, confirmed the search, calling it “government weaponry.”

Adding to the drama, Hollywood actor Sean Penn was in Thursday’s hearing as a guest of former police officer Michael Fanone, who was seriously injured on January 6 and testified last year about his ordeal.

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