Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

The words “pressure campaign” have been used repeatedly in the first public hearings of the US House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021.

Last week, the Democrat-led committee explained how then-US President Donald Trump pressured his deputy, former vice-president Mike Pence, to reject the tally of state electors and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Its next hearing laid out how Mr Trump targeted state-level officials, calling on them to help him hold power, in one case by “finding” thousands of votes.

“President Trump applied pressure at every level of government – from local election workers up to his own vice-president — hoping public servants would give in to that pressure and help him steal an election he actually lost,” said committee chair Bennie Thompson, a Democrat.

“Today we will tell the story of how the pressure campaign also targeted the federal agency charged with enforcement of our laws, the Department of Justice.”

Multiple witnesses testified Mr Trump leaned on Department of Justice (DOJ) leadership to publicly back him by falsely declaring the election was “corrupt”.


Despite repeated objections from several top officials, the former president apparently refused to take no for an answer.

In days leading up to the riot at the US Capitol, he allegedly called the acting attorney-general almost daily with increasingly outlandish requests.

Here’s what we learned from the fifth hearing.

Trump pushed the Justice Department to do his bidding

Today’s hearing featured three of Mr Trump’s own men: Jeffrey Rosen, his acting attorney-general; Mr Donoghue, his acting deputy attorney-general; and Steven Engel, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel.

Three men in suits standing behind a table with their right hands raised to take an oath
The witnesses at the latest hearing all worked at the Department of Justice during the Trump administration. (AP: Jonathan Ernst)

All three DOJ officials recalled facing relentless demands from the president to use the agency’s powers to help him investigate false claims of widespread election fraud.

“Between December 23 and January 3, the president either called me or met with me virtually every day, with one or two exceptions like Christmas Day,” Mr Rosen said.

“He asserted that he thought the Justice Department had not done enough.”

Mr Trump’s requests for Mr Rosen allegedly included appointing a “special counsel for election fraud” within the agency, taking a meeting with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and holding a press conference in support of the president.

Jeffrey Rosen in a suit with a hand to his face in dismay
Former acting attorney-general Jeffrey Rosen said Donald Trump called him almost every day after the 2020 election. (Reuters: Yuri Gripas)

The common theme, Mr Rosen said, was the president’s dissatisfaction with agency’s refusal to bend to his will.

He added the DOJ rebuffed all the requests because “we did not think they were appropriate based on the facts and the law, as we understood them”.

A new player emerged: Jeffrey Clark

Each of the witnesses, who were all part of the Trump administration, told the committee when it became clear to Mr Trump they would not comply, he sought to install a new attorney-general.

At the time, Jeffrey Clark was an unremarkable environmental lawyer at the Justice Department.

But the president tried to give him a big new title.

The testifying officials were scathing about Mr Clark’s fitness for the agency’s top job, which is essentially the most senior lawyer in the United States.

“You’re an environmental lawyer,” Mr Donoghue said he once told Mr Clark.

“How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”


Mr Rosen, the man who was set to be ousted, said he was confused as to how Mr Trump even came to know such a low-level official.

He speculated Mr Clark may have grabbed the president’s attention with a scheme to send a letter from the DOJ to state officials in Georgia.

A man in a suit and black rimmed glasses stands at a lectern in front of a 'Department of Justice" sign
Witnesses told the committee that Mr Trump considered installing a low level environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark as his attorney-general. (Reuters: Yuri Gripas)

The letter falsely claimed the agency had evidence that would force the key swing state to rescind its certification of President Joe Biden’s victory there.

Multiple Trump officials told the committee, both live and in pre-recorded testimony, they were extremely alarmed by the plan.

“That letter is a murder-suicide pact,” White House lawyer Pat Cipollone said.

“It’s going to harm everyone who touches it.”


His colleague Eric Herschmann went even further.

“Good [luck]f ** king a ** hole, congratulations, you just admitted your first step you would take as attorney-general would be committing a felony, “he said he told Mr Clark.

The hearing caps off a bad week for Mr Clark.

Yesterday, federal investigators searched his home in suburban Virginia.

He was seen being led from his house in his pajamas by federal agents who “took his electronic devices”, according to the Washington Post.

The return of Sidney Powell

Mr Clark wasn’t the only ally of Mr Trump’s to be floated for promotion in the weeks leading up to January 6.

The committee aired evidence the president weighed up elevating one of his campaign lawyers, Sidney Powell, to a new role within the DOJ as a special counsel responsible for investigating claims of election fraud.

A woman is speaking at a podium and a man is standing next to her
The hearing heard that Mr Trump allegedly tried to appoint Sidney Powell as his “special counsel” to investigate bogus claims of election fraud. (AP: Jacquelyn Martin)

“[Mr Trump] had asked me to be a special counsel to address the election issue and to collect evidence, “said Ms Powell in an interview with committee investigators.

“He was extremely frustrated with the lack of, I would call it, law enforcement by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law and our republic.”

At the time Ms Powell, known as a regular pundit on conservative radio and TV, was one of the most vocal election conspiracy theorists in Mr Trump’s inner circle.

The former federal prosecutor briefly became the face of the campaign after unleashing a series of wild theories on the American public.


But her false claims of rigged election machines, which became increasingly bizarre, led to her being disavowed by her colleagues, including Mr Giuliani.

A final showdown at the White House

Mr Trump’s efforts to install Jeffrey Clark culminated in a showdown at the White House just three days before the Capitol riot.

Mr Donoghue said he had not expected to be called into the Oval Office that day.

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
The hearing heard that DOJ officials threatened to resign if Mr Trump installed Jeffrey Clark. (AP: Patrick Semansky)

The former military officer said he was mortified to face the president dressed in jeans and muddy boots.

But when Mr Trump asked what he had to “lose” by installing Mr Clark as attorney-general, Mr Donoghue did not hesitate.

“Mr Trump, I would immediately resign,” he said he told the president.

It soon became clear that DOJ leadership would resign en masse and Mr Clark would be left leading a “graveyard”.

Mr Trump backed down.

But he still had one last card to play: Convincing his vice-president Mike Pence to block certification of the election results on January 6.

Republicans requested presidential pardons

The committee also dropped some receipts showing several top Republicans allegedly sought pre-emptive presidential pardons in the dying days of the Trump administration.

Five days after the attack on the Capital, Republican congressman Mo Brooks emailed the White House with the subject line “Pardons.”

The committee said the email was a list of names, which included his colleague Matt Gaetz, and “every congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”

Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz
The hearing heard that several Republicans, including Congressman Matt Gaetz, asked Mr Trump for a pardon.

Mr Gaetz, who was also facing accusations of sex-trafficking at the time, sought a blanket pardon, according to Mr Herschmann.

“The pardon that he was discussing was as broad as you could describe,” he said.

“From the beginning of time up until today for any and all things.”


Several other congressmen’s names were also raised in the hearings, including Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime,” said Mr Kinzinger.

“They knew that every bit of what they did was a lie and it was wrong.”

New witnesses, new evidence have emerged

The committee initially expected to hold two more hearings on the events leading up to the insurrection – one on how Mr Trump “summoned the mob” and then another on how he failed to stop the violence.

But since the hearings began this month, more evidence and tips have reportedly emerged.

This week, investigators interviewed a British filmmaker behind closed doors who had unprecedented access to the Trump family in early 2021.

In filming his documentary, Alex Holder gathered up to 11 hours of footage and interviews with Mr Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Mr Pence.


In one clip leaked to CNN, the former vice president is seen reading an email from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, in which she demands he remove Mr Trump from power.

The video appears to show Mr Pence grinning and saying, “yeah excellent”, though he ultimately declined to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove his boss from office.

With new bombshells in the pipeline, it’s possible more hearings will be added to the schedule.

A woman in a Keep America Great hat shouts in a huge crowd of people holding US flags
Committee members claim Donald Trump is responsible for inciting a mob that breached the Capitol building. (Reuters: Ahmed Gaber)

Posted , updated


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.