WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack plans to unveil new evidence Thursday about how President Donald J. Trump tried to manipulate the Justice Department to help him. cling to power after losing the 2020 election, aides said on Wednesday.
In its fifth public hearing this month, scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, the panel plans to hear testimony from three former senior Justice Department officials who are expected to explain how Mr. Trump tried to abuse the office of the attorney general to overturn his defeat, an extraordinary example of a president interfering with the nation’s law enforcement apparatus for his own ends.
Committee aides said the panel would detail how Mr. Trump unsuccessfully pressured department officials to falsely claim there had been widespread fraud in the election, to file lawsuits to benefit his campaign and to appoint a conspiracy theorist as a special adviser to investigate the election. He will also trace his failed efforts to send fake letters to state officials to overturn the election results and ultimately replace the acting attorney general, who refused to go along with his plans.
Mr Trump eventually backed down after agency officials threatened mass resignations, but the committee is framing his actions as a key part of a multi-tiered effort by the former president to overturn the election.
The witnesses scheduled to testify are Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard P. Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general; and Steven A. Engel, the former Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.
The themes of the January 6 House committee hearings
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and member of the committee, is expected to play a central role in questioning witnesses and presenting evidence. He hinted that the hearing may reveal more information about members of Congress who sought clemency after Jan. 6.
The story of how Mr. Trump tried to interfere in the functioning of the Justice Department to keep himself in office was well documented by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on January 6, but the House investigative aides said Thursday’s hearing will contain new revelations.
Time and again, department officials told Mr. Trump after the election that his claims of widespread fraud were false and urged him to drop some of his more extreme proposals.
A dramatic moment came during an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, when Jeffrey Clark, a little-known department lawyer who had mapped out a strategy to keep Mr. Trump in power, suggested the agency issue an advisory. legal to Vice President Mike Pence advised him on steps he could take during the joint session of Congress scheduled for three days later, when lawmakers were to meet for the official voter count that would confirm Joseph R’s victory Biden Jr.
“It’s an absurd idea,” Mr. Engel said, according to testimony he provided to the committee. “It is not the role of the Department of Justice to provide legislative officials with legal advice on the scope of their duties.”
Mr. Trump then spoke up and told Justice Department officials, who had repeatedly told him that his allegations of widespread fraud were false, that they should not speak to Mr. Pence.
“Nobody should talk to the vice president here,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Engel.
Mr. Trump would continue to repeatedly push Mr. Pence to try to overturn the election results.
Also at that meeting, Mr. Trump offered to fire Mr. Rosen, who was advising him that the 2020 election had not been stolen, and replace him with Mr. Clark, who was prepared to make his offer.
“Sir, I would resign immediately,” Mr. Donoghue said, according to a deposition he gave. “There’s no way I’m serving a minute under this guy,” he said of Mr Clark.
Mr. Trump then turned to Mr. Engel and said, “Steve, you wouldn’t quit, would you? Mr. Engel replied: “Absolutely, Mr. President. You wouldn’t leave me a choice.
Justice Department officials also witnessed interactions between Pat A. Cipollone, the White House attorney, and Mr. Trump. The committee has called on Mr. Cipollone to testify publicly, but he has so far refused.
Mr. Cipollone pushed back against a plan proposed by Mr. Clark, who wanted to distribute official letters to several state legislatures falsely alerting them that the election may have been stolen and urging them to reconsider the certified election results.
“This letter that this guy wants to send – this letter is a murder-suicide pact,” Mr. Cipollone told Mr. Trump, according to Mr. Donoghue. “It will damage anyone who touches it. And we should have nothing to do with this letter. I never want to see that letter again.
The panel is planning at least two more hearings for July, according to its chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi. Those sessions are expected to detail how a mob of violent extremists attacked Congress and how Mr. Trump did nothing to end the violence for more than three hours.