Justice Department officials told the Jan. 6 committee Thursday of President Trump's efforts to enlist them in overthrowing the results of the 2020 presidential election in his last weeks in office, including a plan to install an election denier atop the agency and pressure them to declare the vote corrupt. Trump wanted to make Jeff Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never tried a case before a jury, acting attorney general, the Hill reports. Clark had promised to have the department investigate the election if he was in charge. Richard Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general at the time, testified that he told the president that would prompt "hundreds and hundreds of resignations" in the Justice Department—including his.
According to Donoghue's notes of a phone call, he emphasized to Trump that the Justice Department had found no widespread voter fraud, per the Washington Post. "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," Donoghue said Trump told him. "That's an exact quote from the president," Donoghue added. Jeff Rosen, who was acting attorney general, said he talked to Trump every day from Dec. 23 and Jan. 3 except for Christmas Day, with the president expressing "his dissatisfaction" with the department. Among Trump's proposals were seizing voting machines, appointing a special counsel for election fraud, and the department writing to state legislatures to declare the election fraudulent. "The Justice Department declined all of those requests … because we did not think that they were appropriate based on the facts and the law as we understood them," Rosen said.
Republican members of Congress asked for preemptive presidential pardons for their part in the battle against certifying President Biden's election victory, the committee was told Thursday. Former White House aides said Reps. Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, and Scott Perry made requests. Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger displayed to the hearing a Jan. 11 email written by Brooks seeking general pardons for "every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral vote submission of Arizona and Pennsylvania." Kinzinger said, "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you've committed a crime." (Read more Jan. 6 hearings stories.)