AP

Takeaways: Trump risked provoking ‘constitutional crisis’

Jun 23, 2022, 2:36 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2022, 12:04 pm

Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, testifies as the House select committee investigati...

Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Jan. 6 committee used Thursday’s hearing to show how Donald Trump tried to install a loyalist atop the Justice Department who would pursue his false claims of voter fraud and stop the certification of the 2020 election that Democrat Joe Biden won.

It’s the latest account of how perilously close the United States could have come to a constitutional crisis if the department leaders had not threatened to resign over the scheme and the defeated Trump had been able to orchestrate a plan for the U.S. government to overturn election results in several pivotal states.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., led the hearing, saying it would show “how close we came to losing it all.”

The committee investigating the causes of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been trying to make the case that Trump’s efforts to reverse his loss resulted in the deadly siege after he sent supporters to the Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory. Here are some important takeaways from this month’s fifth hearing.

TRUMP’S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT IN TURMOIL

Day after day, Trump pressured the department leaders to dig into false claims of election fraud after the November 2020 election.

Former Attorney General William Barr had described the swirl of false voter fraud theories coming from Trump’s orbit as “wack-a-mole.”

The department declined Trump’s overtures because “we did not think they were appropriate,” testified Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general after Barr stepped down.

Over and over, the officials explained to Trump that the states conduct their own elections, free from federal interference. They tried to show him there was no voter fraud on a scale that could have tipped the election in his favor.

Trump, however, only pressed harder and started looking for alternatives.

At point in late December 2020, Trump asked what Rosen found to be a “peculiar” question: Do you know Jeff Clark?

Trump was eyeing Clark to take over at the department.

___

WHO IS JEFF CLARK?

Clark led the civil division and particularly handled environmental cases. He was introduced to Trump by a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, a leader of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus.

Clark had been circulating a proposal that would have the legislatures from battleground states not certify their election results. It was similar to a plan from Trump lawyer John Eastman for alternative slates of electors loyal to Trump, rather than Biden, when Congress met Jan. 6, 2021, to certify results.

Clark’s ideas alarmed his colleagues, as did his sudden rise into Trump’s orbit as a potential new acting attorney general.

“It may well had spiraled us into a constitutional crisis,” testified Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general.

___

‘WHAT DO I HAVE TO LOSE?’

During a meeting at the White House days before the riot, Justice Department leaders told Trump they would resign if he tried to install Clark and put his scheme in motion to reject electors.

Trump had called the officials to an unexpected Sunday meeting to lay out his plan. Donoghue described how he was dressed inappropriately in jeans, muddy boots and an Army shirt. Trump had him sit between Rosen and Clark. The president asked Donoghue: What if I replace Rosen with Clark?

“What have I got to lose?” Trump said, as Donoghue recalled.

Donoghue told Trump that the president would have everything to lose: mass resignations at the Justice Department, starting with those arrayed before him at the meeting.

Clark would be left to run a “graveyard” at the department, one of the officials said. Trump’s plan to reject the state electors with those loyal to Trump would never work. It was a “murder-suicide pact,” as his own White House counsel told him, they testified.

Donoghue made the point that “Jeff Clark wasn’t even competent to serve as attorney general.”

When Clark shot back that he had worked on complicated civil and environmental matters, Donoghue retorted: “How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill?”

___

BLANKET PARDONS FOR JAN. 6 …

At least five Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who had connected Trump and Clark, sought pardons from the president that would shield them from criminal prosecution, according to testimony Thursday.

Perry and Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Louie Gohmert of Texas all had been involved in efforts to reject the electoral tally or submit “fake electors.” All sought pardons, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Hutchinson testified previously in video shown at the hearing.

Blanket pardons for all those involved in Jan. 6 were also discussed, according to another White House aide, John McEntee.

Gaetz tweeted that the hearing is a “political sideshow.”

Kinzinger said the only reason to ask for a pardon “is if you think you’ve committed a crime.”

___

… AND SUBPOENAS SERVED ON ‘FAKE ELECTORS’

The hearing was gaveled in as the department escalated its own investigation, searching Clark’s Virginia home this week as federal agents also served subpoenas across the country related to the scheme by Trump allies to create sets of fake electors with the intention of invalidating Biden’s win.

The purpose of the searches was not immediately clear, but they came as the House committee has pressured the department to step up its investigation.

Among those being investigated are Republican officials in key states, including those working on the fake electors in the run-up to Jan. 6, when Congress would be tallying the election results.

___

TRUMP VS. McCARTHY

Trump has decried the proceedings as a “witch hunt” and blamed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for declining to have Republicans on the committee who could defend Trump.

Trump recently told a conservative talk radio host that McCarthy, R-Calif., had made a “bad decision,” “very foolish decision,” by withdrawing the Republicans from the committee.

The only two Republicans on the committee are Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, both Trump critics.

McCarthy has stood by his choice not to seat Republicans after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rejected two of his choices because they had voted to decertify the results of the presidential election.

Rather than picking alternatives acceptable to Pelosi, McCarthy withdrew the others, refusing to play by Pelosi’s rules and trying to portray the the committee as unfair and illegitimate.

“I do not regret not appointing anybody at all,” McCarthy told reporters Thursday, saying he had said as much in a call with Trump. “The decision is right.”

__ Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

___

For full coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court has h...

Associated Press

Supreme Court decision on Trump’s election status could come Monday morning

A SCOTUS decision could come Monday in the case about whether Trump can be kicked off the ballot over his efforts to undo his 2020 defeat.

7 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley poses for a selfie after speakin...

Associated Press

Nikki Haley wins D.C. Republican primary, her first 2024 victory

Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary in the District of Columbia, notching her first victory of the 2024 campaign.

8 hours ago

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

13 hours ago

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yogurt sold in the U.S. can ma...

Associated Press

Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Eating at least two cups of yogurt a week might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

15 hours ago

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

2 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Takeaways: Trump risked provoking ‘constitutional crisis’