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Trump hounded Justice Department officials ‘virtually every day’ to overthrow election, Jan. 6 panel hears

Trump hounded Justice Department officials 'virtually every day' to overthrow election, Jan. 6 panel hears

Donald Trump hounded the U.S. Justice Department to pursue his false election fraud claims, contacting the agency’s leader “virtually every day” and striving in vain to enlist top law enforcement officials in a desperate bid to stay in power, according to testimony Thursday to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on Capitol Hill.

Three Trump-era Justice Department officials testified that Trump was fixated on voter fraud claims and insisted they pursue them despite being repeatedly told that none of the allegations had any merit.

“He had this arsenal of allegations,” said Richard Donoghue, one top Justice official. “I went through them piece by piece to say, no, they were not true.”

Another witness, Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general in the final days of the Trump administration, said he was called by Trump or met with him virtually every day from the time he ascended to the post in late December 2020. The common theme he said, was “dissatisfaction about what the Justice Department had done to investigate election fraud.”

The hearing brought 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 was aimed at showing how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to press his election fraud claims but also tried to leverage the powers of federal executive branch agencies.

Clark’s home searched

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 chair of the committee.

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. 

The Justice Department resisted each demand.

Testimony also focused on a tense Oval Office showdown on Jan. 3, 2021, in which Trump contemplated replacing Rosen with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump’s bogus election fraud claims. Donoghue and another senior Justice Department official, Steven Engel, warned Trump that there would be mass resignations at the department if Trump followed through with his plan. Only then did Trump relent.

The night, and later his administration, ended with Rosen still in his job.

Clark’s name was referenced early in the hearing,…

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