The hearing began just hours after federal investigators raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, who was one of the key Justice Department figures involved in Trump’s schemes. He denied any wrongdoing related to the sixth of January.
Here’s the takeaway from Thursday’s session.
Thursday’s hearing highlighted the role Trump’s Republican allies have played in Congress in advancing his efforts to try to overturn the election — and the number of those who sought a pardon after Jan. 6.
The House Select Committee focused in particular on the efforts of Representative Scott Perry, the Pennsylvania Republican who linked Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to the White House in December 2020.
CNN previously reported on the role Perry played, and the Court Files Committee released text messages that Perry exchanged with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about Clark.
“Mr. Clark — Mr. Jeff Clark wanted to take over the Department of Justice,” Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Meadows, said of Berry in a clip of her testimony presented at Thursday’s hearing.
The committee also revealed new details about Republican members of Congress seeking pardons after Jan. 6, including Perry and Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama and Matt Gaetz of Florida.
“President Trump has asked me to send you this letter. This letter is also at the request of Matt Gates,” said an email Brooks sent to the White House in January 2021, according to the committee. “As such, I recommend that the President grant a general amnesty (for all purposes) to the following groups of people.”
The email included a set of names for “every congressman and senator who voted to deny Electoral College vote requests in Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
Thursday’s session was led by Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who has been largely ostracized by the Republican convention for his role in the Jan. 6 committee.
“My colleagues here have also taken an oath,” Kinzinger said before discussing the pardon. “Some of them failed to support their lie and instead chose to spread the big lie.”
Kinzinger retires at the end of his term.
Inside the Oval Office meeting in December 2020
Eric Hirschman, the Trump White House attorney, said Clark was repeatedly hit in the head during the meeting. He told the committee that he called Clark a “hole” and said his plans would have been illegal. He also said Clark’s plan to send messages to the battlefield nations was “folly”.
“You’re an environmental attorney. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill,” Donoghue said in the affidavit, describing what he told Clark at the White House meeting.
Donoghue said then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone called Clarke’s plan a “murder and suicide pact.”
Donoghue himself described Clark’s plan as “impossible” and “ridiculous”.
“It’s never going to happen,” Donoghue said of the plan. “It will fail.”
Thanks to the opposition of Rosen, Donoghue, Hirschman, Cipollone and possibly others, Trump did not follow his plan, which would have put the country in uncharted waters, and would increase the chances of Trump’s success in withdrawing from his plan. coup attempt.
Italian satellites seize voting machines: White House pushes conspiracy theory
The three witnesses who testified on Thursday explained that Trump tried to use all the tools of the federal government to help validate his claim that the election was stolen and ultimately overturn the legitimate outcome in the run-up to January 6.
They described how senior officials at the highest levels of government were pressured to investigate conspiracy theories that arose from the fringes of the internet as Trump sought to validate ultimately unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud.
The then-Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, even called his counterpart in Rome, at the request of the White House, to investigate a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites had altered votes from Trump to Joe Biden.
The conspiracy theory, previously reported by CNN that it was among those that then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, prompted top national security officials to investigate, was described as “pure insanity” by former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue, who was also asked to Consider the claim.
Former Justice Department officials also detailed how Trump himself and senior Department of Homeland Security officials urged them to seize voting machines from state governments in pursuit of the same — all without reason to take such an unprecedented step.
“Why don’t you just grab the machines, guys?” Trump said during a White House meeting in late December 2020, according to Donoghue’s testimony.
Using the Department of Justice, or any other federal agency, to seize voting machines was an unprecedented move, but Trump has made clear he wants his allies to pursue it as an option.
“Get Ken Cucinelli on the phone,” Trump yelled to his secretary after Justice Department officials told him that the Department of Homeland Security had experience with voting machines and decided there was no justification for seizing them, Rosen said.
Rosen confirmed Thursday that he never told Trump that the Department of Homeland Security might confiscate voting machines. CNN previously reported that Trump pushed the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines.
CNN has also previously reported that Trump allies have drafted executive orders that would have confiscated voting machines by the military and the Department of Homeland Security had Trump signed them — but they ultimately didn’t.
The watered down hearing included a vivid description of Trump’s pressure campaign
Thursday’s proceedings included testimony from three attorneys who described behind-the-scenes events at the Justice Department and the White House. It was a departure from Tuesday’s and earlier hearings, which included emotional testimonies from election officials, and included contrasting videos of the massacre at the Capitol.
But even if there were no rhetorical fireworks, the gist of the testimony was essential to understanding the breadth of Trump’s efforts to sabotage the 2020 election. Former Justice Department officials described what they saw and heard when Trump tried to recruit them to help him stay in power — and how he tried to topple them when they refused to do so. his request.
The material was thick at times. Witnesses rearranged White House meetings and phone calls with Trump. They were asked to dissect their handwritten notes about some of these interactions—something you see often in criminal trials, and less commonly in a congressional hearing.
However, the consistent testimonies of witnesses shed new light on the events we have known about over a year ago. And the entire hearing evoked memories of the Nixon era, because it was about how the incumbent president was trying to weaponize federal law enforcement to aid his political campaign.
The horrific raid on Clark’s home preceded the hearing
Federal investigators’ raid of Clark’s home in northern Virginia preceded the disclosure of Clark’s actions for 2020 at the hearing. Lawmakers were taken aback, but for the first time in a while, it looked like federal investigators may have been heeding their public calls for some action at last.
The raid took place on Wednesday but was reported on Thursday morning. It is not clear which government entity was behind the raid, nor is it known publicly what led to the search of his home, or what investigators were looking for.
Even with these unanswered questions, it’s significant that federal investigators took such a public step – raiding Clark’s home – against one of the most prominent figures in Trump’s post-election plots.
The panel had hoped to turn Clark into a household name Thursday, by obtaining testimony from senior Justice Department officials about how he attempted to abuse law enforcement powers to help Trump overturn the 2020 results in the states he lost. With the raid, it seems that the commission got its wish.
This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.