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The Jan. 6 committee is hearing from former Justice Department officials who faced down a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the 2020 presidential election results while suppressing a bizarre challenge from within their own ranks.
Watch Thompson’s remarks in the player above.
The hearing Thursday is bringing attention to a memorably turbulent stretch at the department as Trump in his final days in office sought to bend to his will a law enforcement agency that has long cherished its independence from the White House. The testimony is aimed at showing how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to press his false claims of election fraud but also tried to leverage the powers of federal executive branch agencies.
The witnesses include Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump contemplated replacing him with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump’s bogus election fraud claims.
WATCH: Jan. 6 Committee hearings – Day 5
The scheme by Trump was a “brazen attempt” to use the Justice Department for his own political gain, said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the Jan. 6 committee.
“Donald Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate,” Thompson said. “He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimate his lies, to basically call the election corrupt” and to appoint a special counsel.
Barely an hour before the hearing began, it was revealed that federal agents this week searched Clark’s Virginia home, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney confirmed the existence of law enforcement activity in Virginia, where Clark lives, but would not say what it was connected to.
Two other former department officials, Rosen’s top deputy, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, were to testify. Both warned Trump at the White House meeting that they’d resign and that many of the department’s lawyers would follow if he replaced Rosen with Clark.
The panel’s hearing is the fifth this month by the House committee investigating the run-up to the insurrection at the Capitol, when Trump loyalists stormed the building as lawmakers were certifying the results of the election won by Democrat Joe Biden. Witnesses have included police officers attacked at the Capitol as well as lawyers, a television executive and local election officials who all resisted demands to alter results in Trump’s favor.
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