By Shane Madden
The Jan. 6 committee hearings continued Thursday afternoon, June 23, and carried on in their intent to unwind the tangled web of events that led to the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The first four hearings covered, in detail, evidence of concerted effort from within the Trump Campaign, including the former president himself, to attack the legitimacy of the 2020 election on multiple fronts, despite overwhelming evidence of its legitimacy. Catch up on the first four hearings here.
Day five of hearings focused on the pressure campaign within the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol. But first, the committee set the stage by playing footage of former attorneys general who served in the last four presidential administrations, including Trump’s own pick, Former AG Jeff Sessions. This was an attempt to establish what the DOJ does, and to verify that they serve the American people and democracy, not the president.
“The attorney general ultimately owes his loyalty to the integrity of the American people and to the fidelity of the constitution and the legitimate laws of our country. That’s what he’s ultimately required to do,” Sessions said in a 2017 confirmation hearing.
The rest of the hearing was spent presenting evidence including text threads, emails, White House memos, as well as phone and video logs. This evidence was presented alongside the testimony of three Trump appointees; former Acting Attorney General Jefferey Rosen, Rosen’s deputy Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who led the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Their testimony revealed the DOJ’s resistance to investigate election fraud claims that had no merit, as well as refusing to take the official stance of questioning the election (thus spreading doubt) without solid proof. They made every attempt to explain that not only is it not within their scope of responsibilities, but that doing so would tarnish the DOJ’s reputation of bi-partisanship.
In a Dec. 15 meeting, Rosen told Trump, “The department can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election.”
“He responded very quickly to that and said, ‘That’s not what I’m asking you to do, I’m just asking you to say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,’” Donoghue said.
When the DOJ wouldn’t bend to his will, Trump sought someone who would.
“He (Trump) looked at me. ‘Well the one thing we know is you’re not going to do anything (about the allegations), you don’t even agree that these concerns are valid. So why shouldn’t I do that?’” Rosen testified under oath.
Trump then moved to replace Rosen with loyalist Jeffrey Clark.
“I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the Attorney General,” Donoghue said. “He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation. He’s never been in front of a jury, much less a trial jury. And he kind of retorted by saying, ‘well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals in civil litigation, environmental litigation, and things like that…’ And I said to Clark, ‘that’s right you’re an environmental lawyer, how about you go back to your office, and we will call you when there is an oil spill.’”
The committee then moved to discussing Clark’s plan upon being promoted, presenting texts and emails gathered during their investigation. Using official DOJ letterhead and all the influence that comes with it, Clark planned to claim the department was investigating widespread credible claims of voter fraud, when in fact they were doing the opposite: debunking claim after claim.
“Let’s hear what President Trump’s own lawyer, Eric Herschmann, had to say about Jeff Clark’s plan to overturn the election,” Rep. Kinzinger said, introducing video testimony.
“And when he (Clark) finished discussing what he planned on doing, I said ‘good fucking — excuse me, sorry — effing A-hole, congratulations. You just admitted your first step or act you take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6E,” Herschmann said.
Then came what might have been the biggest bombshell of the afternoon. The Committee finally revealed their confirmed list of members of congress who preemptively asked for a pardon for their actions leading up to and on the day of Jan 6. Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Perry and Biggs have denied asking for a pardon.
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” Kinzinger said in closing. More insight on day five here.
Chairman of the Committee Bennie Thompson let reporters know that they would hold off on the final two meetings scheduled for this month and reconvene in July, citing new information coming to light which requires additional investigation.
They swiftly reversed course Monday afternoon, scheduling a ‘surprise witness’ for Tuesday, June 28, at 1 p.m.