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Steven Engel, a top Justice Department official who resisted President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, testified Jun. 23 at the House Jan. 6 committee’s fifth hearing.
Engel appeared alongside Trump’s former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.
WATCH: Jan. 6 Committee hearings – Day 5
Engel told the committee that he and other senior Justice Department officials threatened to resign in January 2021 if Trump fired Rosen and named DOJ lawyer Jeffrey Clark to the top job days before the Electoral College votes would be counted at the U.S. Capitol. If installed, Clark, who was in charge of the Justice Department’s civil division at the time, planned to use his new position to help change the results of the 2020 election.
In his Jun. 23 testimony, Engel explained how Clark’s communication with Trump violated long-held department policy of only the attorney general or deputy attorney general speaking with the White House.
“It’s critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality, or any appearance, of political interference,” Engel testified. “People can get in trouble if people at the White House are speaking with people at the department, and that’s why the purpose of these policies is to keep these communications as infrequent and at the highest levels as possible.”
Engel was also present for a Jan. 3 meeting with Trump, Rosen and former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, where the president debated replacing Rosen as acting attorney general with Clark.
The conversation lasted for more than two hours, according to their testimony, and Engel was among those trying to convince Trump not to replace Rosen.
“My recollection is that when the president turned to me and said, ‘Steve, you wouldn’t leave, would you?’ I said, ‘Mr. President, I have been with you through four attorneys general, including two acting attorneys general. But I couldn’t be part of this,’” Engel testified.
He also told Trump that Clark’s letter would not be the bombshell he’d hoped, but would instead result in a public narrative of the president having fired two attorneys general to find the one who would do his bidding.
“It’s going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark,” Engel said, recalling that White House lawyer Pat Cipollone agreed, calling it a “murder-suicide pact.”
For more on the key players in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, click here.
Dan Cooney is the PBS NewsHour's Social Media Producer/Coordinator.
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