Trump told DOJ officials ‘just say it was corrupt, and leave the rest up to me’

Gaetz, Brooks, other GOP lawmakers sought Trump pardons after Jan. 6

Excerpts from an email by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asking for pardons for members of Congress are shown on a screen during the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Multiple Republican members of the House of Representatives sought preemptive pardons from Trump on the heels of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, among them Reps. Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks and Marjorie Taylor Greene, witnesses testified.

Alabama Rep. Brooks sent the White House an email on Jan. 11, 2021, seeking pardons for himself, Gaetz, and “every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral college submission of Arizona and Pennsylvania” five days earlier, according to excerpts of the message displayed during the hearing.

Florida Rep. Gaetz had pushed to receive a pardon beginning in December 2020, according to videotaped testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“The pardon he was requesting was as broad as you could describe, from the beginning of time, up until today, for any and all things” former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said in his own videotaped testimony about Gaetz.

Others who sought pardons were Trump allies such as Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andy Biggs of Arizona as well as Greene, the controversial Georgia congresswoman, according to testimony.

All of them had promoted and supported Trump’s false claims of having lost the 2020 presidential election only as a result of widespread ballot fraud.

After testimony about the pardons was heard, committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said, “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime.”

– Dan Mangan

Trump changed his mind about Clark after being warned of mass resignations at DOJ

Former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue attend the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Witnesses testified that Trump, in a high-stakes Oval Office meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, backed off the possibility of installing Clark as acting attorney general after being warned that “hundreds” of DOJ officials could resign within days.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said that Clark’s draft letter to Georgia alleging election fraud was a “murder-suicide pact,” recalled former Office of Legal Counsel official Steven Engel.

Engel told Trump that Clark would be “leading a graveyard” if he was appointed, according to Donoghue. “That comment clearly had an impact on the president,” Donoghue said.

Kevin Breuninger

Clark’s plans were ‘impossible,’ ‘absurd,’ ‘not going to happen,’ ‘going to fail,’ Donoghue told Trump

An animated recreation of a meeting between former president Donald Trump, Pat Cipollone, Steven Engel, Jeffery Clark, Richard Donoghue, Jeffery Rosen, Eric Herschmann and Pat Philbin is shown on a screen during the fifth hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2022 in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC. The bipartisan committee, which has been gathering evidence related to the January 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol for almost a year, is presenting its findings in a series of televised hearings. On January 6, 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol Building in an attempt to disrupt a congressional vote to confirm the electoral college win for Joe Biden. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman-Pool/Getty Images)

Demetrius Freeman | Getty Images

In a pivotal Oval Office meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, Donoghue said he told Trump that Clark could never deliver on his promise to quickly uncover widespread fraud if he was put atop the DOJ — in part because he was not “competent” enough.

“You’re talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case, who has never conducted a criminal investigation, and he’s telling you that he’s going to take charge of the department, 115,000 employees, including the entire FBI, and turn the place on a dime and conduct nationwide investigations that will produce results in a matter of days?” Donoghue asked.

“It’s impossible, it’s absurd, it’s not going to happen and it’s going to fail,” Donoghue said.

“It’s not going to happen. He’s not competent,” Donoghue added.

Kevin Breuninger

Top DOJ officials agreed to resign if Trump installed Clark as acting attorney general

Former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue attend the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Assistant attorney generals vowed to resign en masse if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark as acting attorney general, Donoghue testified.

He asked those top DOJ officials on a call to tell him what they would do if Clark was promoted. “All essentially said they would leave. They would resign, en masse, if the president made that change in the department leadership,” he said.

“Incredible,” Kinzinger replied.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump chief of staff Meadows sent ‘absurd’ conspiracy video to acting AG Rosen

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and members of the House Freedom Caucus conduct a news conference to call on Attorney General William Barr to release findings of an investigation into allegations of 2020 election fraud, outside the Capitol on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pal., sent texts to Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mark Meadows that included a link to a 20-minute YouTube video alleging baseless conspiracy theories about international election fraud efforts.

“Why can’t we just work the Italian government?” Perry texted Meadows, the committee showed.

Meadows sent that link to Rosen, then the head of the DOJ. Rosen forwarded it to Donoghue, who called it “pure insanity” and “patently absurd.”

Kevin Breuninger

GOP leader McCarthy doesn’t regret not naming Republicans to panel despite Trump gripes

U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) presides over a news conference about the Save Our Sequoias Act at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022. 

Mary F. Calvert | Reuters

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he doesn’t regret not appointing any Republicans to the select committee despite persistent griping by Trump that he failed to do so.

McCarthy, R-Calif., rescinded all of his selections to the panel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blocked several of them.

“I do not regret not appointing anyone at all,” McCarthy said.How can you have an honest investigation if the Speaker can appoint and pick and choose who can be on. How can the speaker select a chairman who voted to override a Republican presidential election?”

Trump has publicly and privately complained that the committee has no Republican members who will defend the former president. The only two GOP members, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are both adversaries of Trump, and voted to impeach him after the Capitol riot.

On Wednesday, Trump complained on his social media platform Truth Social, “Such tremendous lies and innuendo took place yesterday at the Unselect Committee on January 6th.”

“You will never get the truth when you have biased and hateful witnesses who are allowed to go on and on without even the slightest cross examination. Republicans should be allowed representation!!” Trump wrote.

– Dan Mangan

Trump to DOJ: ‘Just say it was corrupt, and leave the rest up to me and Republican congressmen”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives the keynote address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition during their annual “Road To Majority Policy Conference” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center June 17, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Seth Herald | Getty Images

Trump had become more agitated over claims of election fraud by the time of a Dec. 27, 2021, meeting with top DOJ officials, where they told him that the allegations had no merit, one of those officials testified.

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said Acting AG Jeffrey Rosen told Trump that the DOJ could not and would not “snap its fingers” and change the outcome of the presidential election.

“He responded very quickly, and said, essentially, ‘That’s not what I’m asking you to do, what I’m asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest up to me and the Republican congressmen,'” Donoghue said Trump told them.

Trump kept pressing his claims of ballot fraud in swing states that Biden won, Donoghue said, adding that the then-president argued that DOJ had an obligation “to tell people that this was an illegal corrupt election.”

While DOJ found “isolated instances of fraud,” Donoghue said, “none of them came close to calling into question the outcome of the election in any individual state.”

Trump “was adamant that he had won and that we were not doing our job.”

“He had this arsenal of allegations that he wanted to rely on,” said Donoghue.

Donoghue said that during the meeting he tried to make clear to Trump “that these allegations simply had no merit … these allegations were simply not true.”

— Dan Mangan

Clark started conducting his own investigation, Donoghue says

An image of former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark appears on a screen during the fifth hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2022 in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC.

Mandel Ngan | Getty Images

Even after his fraud claims were challenged in contentious meetings with top DOJ officials, Clark continued to “move down this path” between late December and early January, Donoghue said.

“He began calling witnesses and apparently conducting investigations of his own,” Donoghue said.

Clark also got a briefing from the office of the Director of National Intelligence about purported foreign intelligence interference in the election, Donoghue said.

“We thought perhaps once it was explained to him that there was no basis for that part of his concern, that he would retreat,” Donoghue said. “But instead he doubled down, and said, ‘Well, OK, so there’s no foreign interference. I still think there are enough allegations out there that we should go ahead and send this letter.””

Donoghue said that shocked him even more. “Because you would think after a couple days of looking at this, he, like we, would come to the same conclusion that it was completely unfounded,” Donoghue said.

Kevin Breuninger

Clark pushed Trump to install him as acting AG, promising to find fraud

A image displaying a White House visitor log for Jeffrey Clark is displayed during the fifth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 23, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Witnesses described a dramatic Jan. 3, 2021, Oval Office meeting in which Clark pitched Trump to install him as acting attorney general.

Trump, Clark, Donoghue, Rosen and others were in the office at the time. Clark said if he was given the DOJ leadership role, he would uncover widespread fraud, would send out a letter to states suggesting election fraud had been uncovered, Donoghue said.

A video featuring a picture from a White House meeting is played during the fifth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 23, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Clark claimed that this was a last opportunity to “sort of set things straight” with the election, Donoghue said.

Donoghue said he responded that Clark, who was an environmental lawyer and never served as a prosecutor, had never conducted an investigation, never been in front of a grand jury or argued before a jury.

He said Clark retorted that he’d done lots of complex appellate and civil litigation and environmental litigation — to which Donoghue replied: “That’s right, you’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill?”

Kevin Breuninger

White House lawyer says he told Clark the plan to overturn the election would be a ‘felony’

Former White House senior advisor Eric Herschmann told the committee that when Clark told him about his plans to challenge the election results, Herschmann told him he would be committing a crime.

“Congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you’d take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6C. You’re clearly the right candidate for the job,” Herschmann said he told Clark.

Kevin Breuninger

Barr says he shudders to think what would have happened to U.S. if he didn’t push back on Trump election fraud claims

Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is seen on video during his deposition for the public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 9, 2022. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, told the committee that he was glad to have been in the position to be able to say that he “didn’t think there was fraud” in the 2020 election.

That “was really important to moving things forward,” Barr told investigators in an interview clip that played during the hearing.

He said he shudders to think of what would have happened had DOJ not conducted its own investigation. “I’m not sure we would have had a transition at all,” he said.

Kevin Breuninger

Clark letter to Georgia legislature described as ‘murder-suicide pact’

A video former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue speaking is shown on a screen during the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022. 

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Clark co-wrote a December 2020 letter he planned to send to Georgia’s legislature, claiming that the DOJ found “significant concerns” that may have affected the election outcome.

The letter’s claims were a “lie,” Cheney said after displaying a screenshot of the letter. Clark had no evidence of widespread election fraud that could have tipped the outcome of the race, but he knew what Trump wanted him to do, Cheney said.

Had the letter been released on DOJ letterhead, “it would have falsely informed all Americans … that President Trump’s election fraud allegations were likely very real,” Cheney said.

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said White House counsel Pat Cipollone told him: “You know, that letter that this guy wants to send, that letter is a murder-suicide pact, it’s going to damage everyone who touches it.”

Kevin Breuninger

‘There is much more to come’ from Jan. 6 probe, Cheney says

Committee Vice Chair U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) gives her opening statement during the public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 9, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said the committee has much more evidence to reveal in its investigation into the Capitol riot.

“Our committee has just begun to show America the evidence that we have gathered,” Cheney said in her opening remarks.

“There is much more to come, both in our hearings and in our report,” Cheney said.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump wanted DOJ to ‘help legitimize his lies,’ Thompson says

Former President Donald Trump appears on screen during the fourth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 21, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Trump wanted the Department of Justice to actively aid in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, Thompson said at the start of the hearing.

“Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate. He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his election lies. To baselessly call the election corrupt. To appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud. To send a letter to six state legislatures urging them to consider altering the election results,” Thompson said.

When these efforts failed, Trump sought to replace then-acting Attorney General Rosen with Clark, he said.

Kevin Breuninger

Federal agents reportedly searched home of Jeffrey Clark, ex-DOJ official tied to Trump’s election efforts

Jeff Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, September 14, 2020.

Susan Walsh | AFP | Getty Images

Federal agents on Wednesday morning searched the Virginia residence of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, multiple news outlets reported.

Clark, a former environmental lawyer at the Justice Department, played a public role in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. The committee plans to examine his involvement during its hearing Thursday afternoon. The panel plans to show how Trump wanted to install Clark as acting attorney general as part of his plan to overturn Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

ABC News, which reported earlier Thursday the activity at Clark’s Lorton, Virginia, home, cited a neighbor who said they saw FBI agents entering and exiting the residence.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., told NBC News that it “can confirm there was law enforcement activity in that area yesterday.” The spokesperson declined to provide further detail.

Spokespeople for the DOJ, FBI, and select committee did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment on the reported search.

Kevin Breuninger

Hearing will look at Trump’s presidential pardons, chairman said

US Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot speaks during a House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 13, 2022.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said late Wednesday that the fifth public hearing will include “some conversations about pardons.”

Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., noted in a prior hearing that “multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”

She called out Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., who allegedly tried to get pro-Trump DOJ official Clark installed as acting attorney general, and has refused to testify before the committee.

Thompson on Wednesday night declined to name any other pardon-seeking lawmakers. “You must come to the hearing,” he told reporters.

Thompson also said the committee may hold more than the seven hearings that were originally announced. “We can do eight, nine or ten. A lot just depends on what we come up with,” he said.

Kevin Breuninger

GOP Rep. Kinzinger details death threats against him and his family

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) participates at the opening public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 9, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the select committee, said that threats and harassment targeted at him, his family and other members of the panel are “constant” and have been increasing.

Kinzinger on Sunday posted a screenshot on Twitter showing a handwritten death threat, which the congressman said was “Addressed to my wife, sent to my home, threatening the life of my family.”

“The Darkness is spreading courtesy of cowardly leaders fearful of truth,” Kinzinger tweeted.

Kinzinger told CNN on Wednesday that he received another message “last night, threatening execution,” saying that it now seems to be “the normal thing.”

The congressman’s participation in the Jan. 6 investigation and regular criticism of Trump have made him a pariah among many Republicans. He said he shared the death threat to point out the “depravity” swirling around the politically charged probe, decrying “that there are people that literally would come up with this idea of killing a five-month-old because you disagree with me being on the January 6 committee.”

“We have security, we’ve amped up our security posture,” Kinzinger said. “We’re going to move on, and it’s not going to hinder us and it’s not going to intimidate us.”

Kevin Breuninger

Committee has pushed back several hearings

This afternoon’s hearing on the DOJ was originally scheduled for last week, but it was postponed without a clear explanation.

On Wednesday, the committee announced that it was also pushing back its final two public hearings from June to July.

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., suggested Wednesday that new evidence received by the committee prompted the scheduling changes. A select committee aide told CNBC that the panel “continues to receive additional evidence relevant to our investigation” into the Capitol riot, and that it will announce dates and times for the final hearings “soon.”

That new evidence reportedly includes never-before-seen documentary footage from a filmmaker who had access to Trump and his family before and after the riot. The investigators also continue to seek cooperation from key witnesses, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Kevin Breuninger

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