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Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general in the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency, offered more detail in his June 23 testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee on how the former president tried to pressure Justice Department officials to help him overturn the results of the election.
Donoghue was one of the Department of Justice officials who resisted pressure to validate Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. He testified alongside former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Engel, who also refused Trump’s demands.
Trump considered replacing acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen with another Department of Justice lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, who had been telling the president he could help him overturn the election results, according to the committee. Donoghue was among the Justice lawyers who threatened to resign if this happened.
READ MORE: Who are the witnesses testifying at the Jan. 6 hearings?
Donoghue said Trump contacted him repeatedly in December 2020. The requests “became more urgent,” as Trump became “more adamant” that officials should investigate his false claims of voter fraud.
Donoghue testified that he explained to Trump why each of his claims had been debunked, and that the Justice Department wouldn’t file a lawsuit on behalf of the American people, because the department’s only client is the U.S. government.
“We simply did not have standing,” Donoghue said. “We tried to explain that to the president on numerous occasions.”
In previously recorded testimony the committee played at its first hearing, Donoghue said Trump would ask about an election fraud claim, and after he debunked it, the president would then quickly move on to another claim.
Donoghue said Trump’s claims included Native Americans “being paid to vote,” voting errors in Michigan, truckloads of ballots being shipped from New York to Pennsylvania and “suitcases” of votes being dumped in Georgia. Donoghue said he gave explanations to Trump that debunked all those allegations.
Donoghue also took contemporaneous notes during his phone calls with Rosen and Trump, and the committee regularly referred back to them.
According to one of his notes, Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department “can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election.”
WATCH: Jan.6 committee hearings – Day 5
In response, Trump said, “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 to me and the Republican congressmen,” Donoghue testified.
When Donoghue received an email from Clark outlining his proposed letter asking states to send new slates of electors to support Trump, he said he felt he needed to respond immediately to discredit the idea because it was “so extreme.”
Eventually, Donoghue, Rosen, Clark and others met with the president Jan. 3 to discuss Trump’s idea to replace Rosen with Clark as acting attorney general.
Donoghue was vehemently against the idea, he testified.
“Mr. President, you should have the leadership that you want but understand the United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence and law,” Donoghue said he told Trump. “And those are not going to change. So you can have whatever leadership you want, but the department’s position is not going to change.”
Trump ultimately decided not to fire Rosen.
For more on the key players in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, click here.
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