UPDATED, with latest: A number of lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), sought presidential pardons after January 6th, according to testimony before the committee’s hearing on Thursday.
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is you think you committed a crime,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
The committee showed text of a January 11 email in which Brooks was seeking pardons to “every congressman and senator who vote to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.” Gaetz was included in Brooks’ request for a pardon.
In videotaped testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, talked of pardons sought by other lawmakers, including Andy Biggs, Scott Perry and Louie Gohmert. She said that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one.” She also said that had heard that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-CO) had requested a pardon.
John McEntee, a Trump aide, said in a videotaped deposition that Gaetz had told him that he asked for a pardon.
PREVIOUSLY: Some of the most riveting testimony came from top Justice Department officials who described a January 3, 2021 Oval Office meeting in which they warned Donald Trump against appointing Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.
At the time, Clark was a DOJ official specializing in environmental law, but he also backed Donald Trump’s claims of a tainted election and would pursue steps to help reverse the results, including sending letters to Georgia and other states, on the grounds of election irregularities. But the DOJ also had found no evidence of widespread fraud, and such a move was seen within DOJ leadership as an effort to ultimately replace Joe Biden’s electors with those of Trump.
As the officials argued to Trump against making such a move, the president at one point said, “What have I got to lose?”
Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said that he told Trump, “a lot.” He said that during the Oval Office meeting that if he named Clark to the post, “within 24, 48 hours you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions.” He said that Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, called Clark’s letter a “murder-suicide pact.”
Ultimately, their pleadings had an impact on Trump, who backed down from the plan.
But Trump continued to claim that the election was stolen from him, including at the rally at the Ellipse that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
Trump had repeatedly pressured the DOJ officials to investigate election fraud claims. “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do,” Trump said at one point.
Donoghue also described as “pure insanity” one of the conspiracy theories: That Italian satellites had changed votes to Biden. Nevertheless, according to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the committee, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller actually placed a call to the attache in Italy to investigate the claim.
The DOJ officials said that Trump wanted them to seize voting machines, and that the president made the same request of the Department of Homeland Security. But there was no cause for doing so.
PREVIOUSLY, 2:19 PM PT: Donald Trump sought multiple avenues to get the Justice Department to investigate election fraud even after Attorney General William Barr told him repeatedly that federal officials had done so and the allegations were without merit.
Jeffrey Rosen, who Trump appointed as acting attorney general after Barr’s resignation in December 2020, said Thursday in testimony in front of the January 6th Committee that the president called or met with him almost every day between December 23 and January 3, as Congress’ official electoral vote count approached on January 6 that would officially certify Joe Biden as the winner.
“The common element of all of this was the president expressing dissatisfaction that the Department of Justice had not done enough to investigate election fraud,” Rosen told the committee.
Richard Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general, also spoke with and met with Trump multiple times. He told the committee today that at one time, after he told the president that the election fraud claims were false, Trump told him, “Just say the election is corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.” At the time, Donoghue took notes of the quote, and he told the committee those were Trump’s exact words.
In a 90-minute conversation with Trump on December 27, Donoghue said that he went through fraud allegations one by one and explained how they had been investigated and was “very blunt” that they were without merit. “I wanted to cut through the noise,” he said.
Rosen said that Trump suggested the DOJ appoint a special counsel to investigate election fraud, that he meet with his campaign counsel Rudy Giuliani and that they merely hold a press conference, essentially to sow doubt on the results of the election.
“He wanted the Justice Department to legitimize his lies, to basically call the election corrupt,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chairman of the committee. He said that Trump was engaged in a “brazen attempt” to get the DOJ to support his claims.
Among those in attendance at the hearing: Actor Sean Penn, who was sitting in the first row next to Michael Fanone, the former Metropolitan Police department officer who was injured in the attack on the Capitol. Penn did to say much to reporters, and, just outside the hearing room, left down a flight of stairs when one observer asked he and Fanone for a selfie.
The witnesses were scheduled to be Jeffrey Rosen, who served as acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel.
This will be the committee’s final hearing before a break, with plans to resume in July after a congressional recess. Committee members said that new evidence was still coming in, including footage from a documentary on Trump that will be shown this summer on Discovery+.
Filmmaker Behind Discovery+’s Donald Trump Documentary Meets With January 6th Committee, Tells CBS News That President Was “Quite Irate” After Capitol Attack
The hearing came on the same day that federal agents reportedly searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, who was a top Justice Department official who was part of an effort to delay or overturn the electoral vote results. Previous testimony in the hearing showed that other DOJ officials threatened to resign if Trump installed Clark as the new attorney general.
Clark had written a draft letter, to be sent to the Georgia legislature for the purpose of approving a new slate of electors, having agreed to assist the president in his effort. The committee played video in which DOJ officials resisted Clark’s attempts, which included him ousting Rosen as acting attorney general just days before the counting of electoral votes on January 6. Among other things, they told Clark that his expertise was in environmental law, not election or Constitutional law.
Trump appointed Rosen as acting attorney general after the resignation of William Barr, who had told the president that his claims of election fraud were baseless.
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