The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol focused Thursday's hearing on the efforts of then-President Donald Trump and former Justice Department officialto pressure the department to help overturn the 2020 election results.
Trump wanted to fire acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen — who had just taken over in December 2020, after Attorney Generalbecame official — and to replace him with Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never prosecuted a criminal case. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who led the questioning Thursday, said Clark's only qualification was that "he would do whatever the president wanted him to do."
Installing Clark and the pressure campaign on the Justice Department amounted to "essentially a political coup," committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said.
In video testimony, former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, said of Clark that "best I can tell, the only thing you know about environmental and elections challenges is they both start with 'E.'"
Three former Justice Department officials testified before the committee Thursday -– former acting deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel. Donoghue showed handwritten notes he had taken during a call with Trump, in which the former president said, "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen."
Trump's determination to install Clark as the nation's top law enforcement official was apparent — Jan. 3, 2021 White House call logs shown by the committee were already referring to Clark as the acting attorney general. But all the deputy attorneys general threatened to quit if Clark was installed to helm the Justice Department, former assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel, testified Thursday, and this reality convinced Trump to reconsider.
Donoghue testified Thursday that Clark wanted to send a letter to the Georgia Legislature from the Justice Department questioning the integrity of the election, a move that "may very well have spiraled us into a constitutional crisis" if that plan had been allowed to go forward, Donoghue said.
After the 2020 election, Trump relentlessly pushed the Justice Department to investigate his claims of election fraud, even after they had been investigated and disproven. At one point, when the Justice Department declined to act on a conspiracy theory claiming Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Biden, the Defense Department made some inquiries. Donoghue dismissed the theory as "absurd."
Kinzinger said the panel learned that former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ended up calling the attaché in Italy to investigate the Italian satellite claim.
Handwritten notes from Donoghue noted that Trump told top Justice Department officials, "You guys may not be following the internet the way I do."
"This is one of the best examples of the lengths President Trump would go to stay in power," Kinzinger said. "Scouring the internet to support his conspiracy theories."
Meanwhile, CBS News has learned that there was a search of Clark's home on Wednesday morning.
Also revealed on Thursday was that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and other GOP members of Congress asked for pardons from the White House, according to recorded communications and recorded testimony from former White House aides.
Five days after the attack on the Capitol, Rep. Mo Brooks emailed the White House a letter "pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz," recommending that the president give blanket "pardons to the following groups of people: Every Congressman and senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania."
Brooks, meanwhile, responded to the revelation of his pardon request in a text message to CBS News: he said that "there was a concern Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans who acted pursuant to their Constitutional or statutory duties under 3 USC 15."
The committee has not set the dates of the next hearings, which Thompson said earlier this week would likely be in July.
Ellis Kim contributed to this report.
Trump demands that panel let his backers present evidence of election fraud
Former President Trump reacted angrily on his Truth Social platform Thursday night to the testimony presented at the select committee hearing earlier in the day.
He repeated, again, his false claims of election fraud and culminated with a demand that his supporters be allowed to immediately present "the evidence state by state."
Referring to panel members as the "unselects," Trump said, "The only thing not discussed by the Unselects, in any way, shape, or form, is the irrefutable evidence of massive and totally pervasive ELECTION FRAUD & IRREGULARITIES which took place during the 2020 Presidential election. They refuse to go there, they want it all CANCELLED, because it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the Unselect Committee to refute or challenge that which would be put before them, or the American Public. To the Unselects I ask, LET US PUT ON THE EVIDENCE, STATE BY STATE - AND NOW!"
Testimony throughout the hearings has pointed to the lack of such evidence, and numerous Trump allies have refused to cooperate with the committee.
Former DOJ officials testify at fifth public Jan. 6 committee hearing
Former Justice Department officials who served during the Trump administration testified Thursday that they faced a relentless pressure campaign from Trump to help him overturn the 2020 election. Nikole Killion reports from Capitol Hill. Then, CBS News' Major Garrett and Catherine Herridge join Jamie Yuccas to discuss the day's developments.
Ivanka Trump told filmmaker Trump should "continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted"
In her deposition, Ivanka Trump was asked about her reaction to Attorney General Bill Barr announcing there was no widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
"It affected my perspective," she told the committee. "I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying."
But in a clip of her interview with Holder, which was exclusively obtained by CBS News, she struck a different tone.
"As the president has said, every single vote needs to be counted and needs to be heard," Ivanka Trump said. "And, he campaigned for the voiceless, and I think a lot of Americans feel very, very disenfranchised right now and really question the sanctity of our elections. And, that's not right … and it's not acceptable. He has to take on this fight. ... And he wants to make sure that their voice is heard and not muted, and will continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted, and that's what he should do."
According to the New York Times, which was first to report on the contents of Ivanka Trump's interview with the film crew, the interview happened on Dec. 10, 2020, days after Barr publicly declared there was no widespread fraud.
— Sarah Barth
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Filmmaker Alex Holder: Trump saw violence on Jan 6. as an "inevitability"
British documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, who spent weeks filming the Trump campaign and interviewing President Trump and his family members, said it came as no surprise to him that Jan. 6, 2021, culminated in violence. Holder believes the president saw it as "an inevitability."
"I actually said the night before — I was sort of half joking — and I said, 'You know, the president's going to tell everyone to march on the Capitol.' This was the night before Jan. 6, and we sort of prepared for that potentially happening," Holder told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell Thursday in his first interview since his deposition with the House select committee investigating the attack.
Holder spoke to the committee for more than two hours on Thursday.
Read moreor watch O'Donnell's interview with Holder in the player below:
Thompson says committee hasn't spoken Ginni Thomas yet
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters after the hearing wrapped that they had not yet spoken to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Initially the committee had said they weren't seeking to speak to Thomas, but newly-revealed emails show that Thomas has corresponded with Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman.
Since then, the committee sent a letter to Thomas, which she has responded to. "Well, she's answered our letter, and we look forward to continued engagement with her," Thompson said earlier this week.
Thompson also said a subpoena is not off the table for former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Engel testified Thursday that Cipollone called a letter that Clark wanted to send a "murder-suicide pact."
At the last committee hearing, Cheney called on Cipollone to meet with the committee.
Thompson also said that while the committee would like to speak to former Vice President Mike Pence, they have spoken to his attorneys and the committee feels they have told the story well.
Mo Brooks produces email recommending pardons
Rep. Mo Brooks gave CBS News a copy of the Jan. 11, 2021, email he sent to a White House aide requesting a pardon for all Republicans who signed onto an amicus brief in states, and to all members of Congress who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania. In the letter, Brooks said he sent the letter at the request of the president and Rep. Matt Gaetz.
"The email request says it all," Brooks said in a text to CBS News. "There was a concern Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans who acted pursuant to their Constitutional or statutory duties under 3 USC 15. Fortunately, with time passage, more rational forces took over and no one was persecuted for performing their lawful duties, which means a pardon was unnecessary after all."
Cheney to Trump supporters: "He deceived you"
Kinzinger delivered a closing statement, in which he lambasted Trump for attempting to enlist the Justice Department to do his personal bidding and assist him in his plot to stop the transfer of power.
"The Justice Department lawyers are not the president's personal lawyers," he said. "We count on them to be on the side of the law and to defend the interests of the United States, not the best interest of any political campaign."
Kinzinger said Trump's plan involving the Justice Department was part of a "power play" to remain in office.
"The bottom line: the most senior leadership of the Justice Department, from Attorney General Bill Barr, to Jeff Rosen, his successor, and his deputy Rich Donoghue, everyone except Jeff Clark, was telling President Trump the very same thing: the conspiracy theories were false, the allegation of a stolen election was a lie. The data left no room for doubt, nothing to question, and the Constitution left no room for President Trump to change the outcome of an election," the Illinois Republican said.
He also knocked his Republican colleagues, specifically those who sought presidential pardons from Trump.
"They knew that every bit of what they did was a lie and it was wrong," said Kinzinger, who is often the target of criticism by defenders of the former president.
Cheney thanked the former Justice Department officials who testified in person and said they will likely come under attack by Trump's supporters as purported agents of the so-called "deep state." She also previewed that in the coming weeks, the American people will hear from long-time Republicans about events leading up to and on Jan. 6.
Cheney closed with an appeal directly to Trump's backers: "It can be difficult to accept that President Trump abused your trust, that he deceived you. Many will invent excuses to ignore that fact, but that is a fact. I wish it weren't true, but it is."
Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks and other GOP members sought pardons, former White House aides testified
Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and other GOP members of Congress asked for pardons from the White House, according to recorded communications and recorded testimony from former White House aides.
Five days after the attack on the Capitol, Rep. Mo Brooks emailed the White House a letter "pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz," recommending that the president give blanket "pardons to the following groups of people: Every congressman and senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania."
Witnesses told the committee that the president considered offering a wide range of pardons.
Former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said he believed Gaetz requested a pardon "as broad as you can describe."
"The general tone was, 'We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president's positions on these things,'" Herschmann recalled. "The pardon that he was discussing requesting was as broad as you could describe, from the beginning of time up until today, for any and all things. … He mentioned Nixon and I said, 'Nixon's pardon was never nearly that broad.'"
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson also testified in recorded testimony that Gaetz and Brooks both advocated for a "blanket" pardon for members of Congress involved in a Dec. 21 meeting as "preemptive pardons."
"Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December," Hutchinson said. "I'm not sure why."
Hutchinson said Rep. Andy Biggs also contacted her on the topic of pardons.
Former White House aide John McEntee also testified that Gaetz requested a pardon.
"He told me," McEntee said in recorded testimony. "... He told me he'd asked Meadows for a pardon."
McEntee said he knew the president had "hinted" at pardons before leaving office.
Engel says he told Trump appointing Clark would signal he burned through AGs "until you found the environmental guy"
Recalling the White House meeting with Trump in which top Justice Department officials warned him they would resign if he elevated Clark to acting attorney general, Engel said such a step would not shift focus to the election.
"'All anyone is going to think is that you went through two attorneys general in two weeks until you found the environmental guy to sign this thing,'" Engel told the committee he said to Trump, referencing Rosen's draft letter. "So the story is not going to be that the Justice Department has found massive corruption that would've changed the results of the election, ,it's going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark."
Pat Cipollone, Engel recalled, then called the letter a "murder-suicide pact."
"The premise … that Mr. Clark could come in and take over the Department of Justice and do something different was just an absurd premise, and all he was doing, Mr. Clark, by putting himself forward was blowing himself up and if the president were to go that course, it would've been a grievous" effort by the president, Engel said.
Still, Trump continued to pursue his claims, calling Donoghue to say he heard of a truck in the custody of federal immigration authorities that allegedly contained shredded ballots.
On the day of Jan. 6, Rosen recalled being at the Justice Department and fielded calls from congressional leadership and Pence, but not Trump, as the violence unfolded.
"I spoke to a number of senior White House officials, but not the president," he said.
Donoghue himself went to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and conducted a briefing for Pence and congressional leadership from an office that night, he said. He left the U.S. Capitol when the Senate resumed its session.
"Like the AAG, the acting AG, I spoke to Pat Cipollone and Mark Meadows and the vice president and the congressional leadership but I never spoke to the president that day," he said.
All assistant attorneys general threatened to resign if Clark was made acting AG
Rosen described how Clark told him one Sunday in a one-on-one meeting that he would be replacing him as acting attorney general. Rosen said Clark offered to have Rosen stay on as his deputy.
"I thought that was preposterous," Rosen testified Thursday. "I told him that was nonsensical."
Clark said he wouldn't take the helm at the Justice Department if Rosen signed onto the letter undermining the integrity of the election results. Rosen said he and Donoghue consistently stated they would not sign the letter.
Donoghue held a meeting with all but one assistant attorney general — that assistant attorney general was unable to make the call — and every assistant attorney general said they would resign if Clark took the helm at the Justice Department.
"All without hesitation said they would resign," Donoghue testified Thursday.
Kinzinger presented call logs in which the White House was already referring to Clark as the acting attorney general on Jan. 3, 2021.
"As far as the White House was concerned, Mr. Clark was already at the top of the Justice Department," Kinzinger said.
Hours after the White House was already describing Clark as the acting attorney general, top DOJ officials were invited to an Oval Office meeting with the president.
Rosen said the president turned to him and suggested that Clark would do more to investigate election results.
"'Well one thing we know is you, Rosen, you aren't going to do anything,'" Rosen recalled Trump saying. ''You don't even agree with the claims of election fraud. And this other guy at least might do something.'"
"And then I said, 'Mr. President, you're right that I'm not going to allow the Justice Department to do anything to overturn the election, that's true. But the reason for that is that's what's consistent with the facts and the law. That's what's required under the Constitution.'"
Donoghue says baseless vote-switching theory using Italian satellites was raised by DOD official
Donoghue said he also received a call from Kash Patel, a top Pentagon official at that time, who asked about the "Italy thing."
While Donoghue reiterated that the baseless claims about a vote-changing scheme from Italy was "absurd" and had been debunked, Meadows continued to press the issue, bouncing from the Justice Department to the Defense Department, according to Kinzinger.
"The ask for him was can you call out the Defense attaché Rome and find out what the heck is going on because I'm getting all these weird, crazy reports and probably the guy on the ground knows more than anything," former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller told the committee.
Kinzinger said the panel learned that Miller called the attaché in Italy to investigate the claim that Italian satellites were switching votes.
"This is one of the best examples of the lengths President Trump would go to stay in power," he said. "Scouring the internet to support his conspiracy theories."
Handwritten notes from Donoghue indicate Trump said, "You guys may not be following the internet the way I do."
"Why can't we just work with the Italian government?"
Text messages obtained by the committee showed that at least one conspiracy theory about the election was raised by Perry to Meadows, elevating a claim from the internet to one of the administration's highest-ranking officials.
"Why can't we just work with the Italian government?" Perry texted Meadows on Dec. 31, which included a link to a YouTube video.
Meadows then sent the YouTube link to Rosen, who passed it along to Donoghue. The 20-minute-long video spread an unfounded theory that votes for Trump were being surreptitiously changed to Biden via Italian satellites.
"I emailed the acting attorney general and I said 'pure insanity,' which was my impression of the video, which was patently absurd," Donoghue said of his reaction to the video.
Rosen said he also received a phone call from Meadows asking him to meet with Bradley Johnson, the man in the video spouting the claims.
"I told him this whole thing about Italy had been debunked, and that should be the end of that, and I certainly wasn't going to meet with this person," Rosen recalled, adding that Meadows appeared to accept that reasoning but called him back and "complained and said, 'I didn't tell you, but this fellow Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani, and Mr. Giulliani is really offended that you think they have to go to an FBI field office. That's insulting.'"
Rosen said he became "agitated" and he said would meet with neither Johnson nor Giuliani. He also told Meadows not to raise the issue with him again.
"I made pretty clear that I had no interest in doing anything further," he said.
Trump threatened to fire top Justice Department officials and install Jeff Clark, Donoghue says
Donoghue recalled that during the meeting with Trump, the president was getting "very agitated" again and threatened to fire both Rosen and Donoghue, and replace them with Clark with the hope that "maybe something will get done."
Donoghue said he told the president he was entitled to the leadership he wanted, but warned: "Understand, the United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence and law, 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."
Cipollone, the White House counsel who had an "impossible job at that point," Donoghue said, was also supportive of the Justice Department.
In addition to the pressure from Trump, Meadows also sent Rosen a flood of emails on Jan. 1, 2021, one of which encouraged him to send Clark to Fulton County, Georgia, to examine allegations of voter fraud there and another raising claims about fraud in New Mexico.
Rosen said he had concerns about the request, since it wasn't the Justice Department's role to "function as an arm of any campaign — for any party or any campaign."
The claims were also a "rehash" of accusations that had already been debunked, he added.
Trump asked Sidney Powell to be special counsel and suggested seizing voting machines to DOJ leaders
In recorded testimony, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell told the committee that Trump had asked her to serve as a special counsel within the Justice Department to investigate election fraud. No such special counsel position was ever created.
Powell was among the Trump allies spreading some of the most baseless election fraud theories. Powell said Trump made that comment to her on Dec. 18, 2021.
"On Friday, he had asked me to be special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence, and he was extremely frustrated with the lack of I would call it law enforcement by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law and our republic," Powell said in her recorded testimony.
Kinzinger said a special counsel, with only days to go until election certification, would just create an "illusion of legitimacy" and provide "fake cover for those who would want to object, including those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6."
On Dec. 31, Trump called a last-minute meeting with DOJ leadership in which, according to Donoghue, an "agitated" Trump suggested the idea of appointing a special counsel.
"There was a point at which the president said something about 'Well, why don't you guys seize machines?'" Donoghue said.
When the president was told by the acting attorney general that the machines would not be seized, the acting attorney general said the Department of Homeland Security has expertise in machines. Then the president yelled for his secretary to get top DHS official Ken Cuccinelli on the phone.
"The president essentially said, 'Ken, I'm sitting here with the acting attorney general. He just told me it's your job to seize machines and you're not doing your job,'" Donoghue said.
Engel testifies about Trump's push for Justice Department to file lawsuit in Supreme Court to challenge election results
While Clark was pushing for the Justice Department to send his draft letter regarding Georgia, Trump was undertaking additional efforts to pressure the department to change the outcome of the election, Kinzinger said.
One part of this campaign was for the department to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, according to an email sent Dec. 29 by Molly Michael, a Trump White House aide, and obtained by the committee. In the email, Michael wrote: "The President asked me to send the attached draft document for your review."
Engel and the department opposed filing the suit, stating in a document obtained by the panel that there was "no legal basis to bring this lawsuit. … Anyone who thinks otherwise simply does not know the law, much less the Supreme Court."
The draft suit was prepared by people outside the Justice Department and intended to be brought by the United States and the acting solicitor general as an original jurisdiction matter in the Supreme Court, Engel recalled.
"It was a meritless lawsuit that was not something the department could or would bring," he said, explaining not only did the U.S. lack legal standing to bring the suit, but it also would've been untimely as states already certified their election results.
"The request that the department file a lawsuit drafted by outside lawyers was certainly an unusual request," he said.
Engel also noted there was no "appropriate" or "necessary" reason for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud, as Trump wanted the department to do.
Documentary filmmaker Alex Holder tells CBS News that Trump did not take responsibility for Jan. 6 riot
In an interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell, documentary filmmaker Alex Holder said it was "staggering" that former President Trump "essentially gave the reason why they were there without fully understanding that he was responsible for that reason."
When O'Donnell asked if that meant Trump did not take responsibility, Holder said "I think that would be a fair conclusion to what I just said."
Holder appeared for a deposition before the House Jan. 6 committee earlier Thursday. He tweeted after the closed-door meeting that the Trumps did not have editorial control over the documentary.
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Donoghue says Clark "doubled down" on interfering with election despite admonishments
Taking up the questioning, Cheney discussed the letter at the center of Clark's plan that he wanted to send from the Justice Department questioning the integrity of the election.
Donoghue said Clark's ideas were contrary to facts, and sending such a letter "would have had great consequences for the country."
"It may very well have spiraled us into a constitutional crisis," Donoghue said.
The acting attorney general was also "exasperated" by Clark's ideas, and Clark, the acting attorney general and Donoughue met together. In that meeting, Donoghue was admonished and discouraged from moving forward.
"It was a very contentious meeting," Donoghue said.
Still, Clark continued to push this idea of a letter and baseless accusations, Donoghue said. Clark was even briefed by intelligence officials, who explained claims of foreign interference were baseless. Donoghue thought that would halt Clark.
"But instead he doubled down," and still wanted to send the letter, Donoghue said.
Clark continued to call witnesses and conduct an investigation on his own, Donoghue said. That was problematic because, among other things, the DOJ has very strict rules on who can speak with the White House, and very strict rules about investigation proceedings.
When Clark was confronted, he became offensive. Donoghue said at that point, he reiterated to Clark what he'd said before — that such a letter was "nothing less than Justice Department meddling in an election." Clark, according to Donoghue, responded that a "lot" of people meddled in the election.
The committee then played video of Clark pleading the Fifth Amendment when he appeared before the committee.
Kinzinger says GOP Rep. Scott Perry introduced Trump to Clark and pushed for his elevation within Justice Department
Rosen recalled a conversation with Trump on Dec. 24, which was the first time the former president made a "peculiar" reference to Clark, one that left him "quizzical" as to how Trump knew of the Justice Department lawyer, as neither the department's civil division nor its Environment and Natural Resources Division, which Clark led, were involved in investigating voter fraud.
Kinzinger said the panel discovered through records it obtained that it was Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who introduced the president to Clark and brought him to a meeting with Trump at the White House on Dec. 22.
The day prior, Trump had a meeting with a group of GOP lawmakers at the White House about the election, which then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also tweeted about, according to Kinzinger.
In introducing Clark to Trump and suggesting he be elevated to a higher post within the Justice Department, Giuliani told the committee in a deposition that he told people that "somebody should be put in charge of the Justice Department who isn't frightened of what's going to be done to their reputation because the Justice dept was filled with people like that," according to a clip of his testimony.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Meadows, also told the committee it was Perry who wanted Clark to take over the Justice Department.
Following up on Trump's reference to Clark, Rosen said he called Clark to learn why the former president knew him, and learned he had been in a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office just before Christmas.
Rosen recalled telling Clark, "You didn't tell me about it, it wasn't authorized and you didn't even tell me after the fact," adding it was "not appropriate."
The former acting attorney general told the committee there is a policy regarding communication between the White House and Justice Department about criminal matters, which restricts conversations with the White House to only the attorney general or deputy attorney general, or only with authorization from the department's No. 1 and No. 2.
"The idea is to make sure that the top rung of the Justice Department knows about it and is in the thing to control it," Rosen said of the policy.
The committee also revealed a text exchange between Perry and Meadows on Dec. 26, in which Perry urgently appeals to the White House chief of staff to shake up the top ranks of the Justice Department
Perry told Meadows on Dec. 26: "Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!"
Perry told Meadows in another message: "Mark, you should call Jeff. I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won't work, especially with the FBI. They will view it as not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done."
Meadows replied: "I got it, I think I understand. Let me work on the deputy position."
Perry then said in a series of messages: "Roger, just sent you something on Signal." "Just sent you an updated file." "Did you call Jeff Clark?"
Perry then called Donoghue at the behest of Trump to discuss the results of the Pennsylvania election and his distrust of the FBI, Donoghue said.
Donoghue says none of Trump's fraud claims were credible
Donoghue described a Dec. 27, 2020, conversation with Trump that lasted about 90 minutes, in which he tried to "educate" the president on the election.
That December 27 conversation, Donoghue said, "was in my mind an escalation of the earlier conversation."
"He had this arsenal of allegations that he wanted to rely on, and so I felt in that conversation it was incumbent on me to make it very clear to the president what our investigations had revealed," Donoghue said. The conclusion was that "these allegations simply had no merit," he added.
There were many people "whispering in his ear" and feeding the president "conspiracy theories," so Donoghue took it upon himself to, piece by piece, refute the unsubstantiated allegations the president was making.
Kinzinger asked if any of the voter fraud allegations the president was making were credible.
"No," Donoghue said.
Donoghue said Trump asked what the DOJ was doing, and Donoghue described how the president appeared to have a weak grasp on the Justice Department's job.
Donoghue's handwritten notes show Trump said on the call, "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
Trump also, according to Donoghue's note, told him, "We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election."
The situation escalated until the most heated meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, Donoghue said.
"President Trump's total disregard for the Constitution and his oath will be fully exposed," Kinzinger says
Kinzinger appealed to his Republican colleagues to "imagine the country's top prosecutor with the power to open investigations, subpoena, charge crimes and seek imprisonment, imagine that official pursuing the agenda of the other party instead of that of the American people as a whole. And if you're a Democrat, imagine it the other way around."
"Today, President Trump's total disregard for the Constitution and his oath will be fully exposed," he said.
Thompson then briefly introduced the three former Justice Department officials and swore them in.
While former Attorney General Bill Barr was at the helm of the department on Election Day, he resigned effective Dec. 23, after which Rosen, who succeeded Barr, said the president continued to demand the Justice Department investigate election fraud claims.
"He asserted that he thought the Justice Department had not done enough," Rosen told the committee, adding Trump contacted him "virtually every day" from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, with one or two exceptions.
Trump also asked Rosen and Donoghue to meet with him at the White House on Dec. 15, a conversation Donoghue told the panel focused on alleged fraud in Antrim County, Michigan.
The "common element" of the numerous discussions with Trump was the president "expressing his dissatisfaction" that the Justice Department, in his view, hadn't done enough to investigate election fraud, Rosen said.
But he added that there were other issues that were raised by Trump in the weeks following the election: appointing a special counsel for election fraud; requests for the Justice Department to meet with lawyer Rudy Giuliani; the Justice Department filing a lawsuit in the Supreme Court; department leaders making public statements or holding a press conference; and sending a letter to state legislators in Georgia and other states.
Rosen said the Justice Department declined all Trump's requests.
Kinzinger says Jeff Clark's only qualification for acting attorney general was "that he would do whatever the president wanted him to do"
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who will lead much of the questioning in Thursday's hearing, described how "presidential pressure can be really hard to resist."
"When the president tried to misuse the department and install a loyalist at its helm, these brave officials refused and threatened to resign," Kinzinger said. "They were willing to sacrifice their careers for the good of our country."
Kinzinger said it's critical that the president of the United States "cannot and must not use the department to serve his own personal interest, and he must not use his people to do his political bidding, especially when what he wants them to do is to subvert democracy.
Trump, Kinzinger said, wanted the Justice Department to say the election was "corrupt," and leave the rest to Republican members of Congress. So, Kinzinger said, the president sought out a new attorney general, which would be his third in two weeks. He needed someone able to ignore the facts, Kinzinger said.
Clark, an environmental attorney, had no real qualifications to make him attorney general, Kinzinger said.
"What was his only qualification? That he would do whatever the president wanted him to do," Kinzinger said.
Furthermore, the committee showed video of former White House attorney Eric Herschmann testifying that Clark's proposal to question the results of the election was "nuts."
"I thought Jeff's proposal, Clark's proposal was nuts," Herschmann said in the video testimony. "I mean this is a guy ... best I can tell, the only thing you know about environmental and elections challenges is they both start with 'E.' And based on your answer tonight, I'm not even sure that you know that."
Cheney says hearing will include testimony about members of Congress who sought pardons
Cheney delivered an opening statement walking through the framework that the committee has revealed in its four hearings thus far, from his continued spreading of false claims about the election, to his fraudulent fundraising campaign, to the efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject state electoral votes, and his provocation of the mob on Jan. 6.
"As you can tell, these efforts were not some minor or ad hoc enterprise concocted overnight. Each required planning and coordination, some required significant funding, all of them were overseen by President Trump," Cheney said, adding that more information will be presented about his statements nda actions Jan. 6
Cheney said much of the discussion regarding the pressure mounted on the Justice Department will focus on a letter drafted by Jeffrey Clark in late December 2020 claiming the department had significant concerns about the integrity of the election and calling for Georgia's legislature to consider appointing a new slate of presidential electors. The letter also claimed a fake slate of electors supporting Trump had been transmitted to Washington to be opened by Pence during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
"The text is similar to what we have seen from John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom were coordinating with President Trump to overturn the 2020 election," Cheney said about the letter.
The Wyoming Republican said that in response to Clark's proposed letter, Donoghue wrote that sending it "would be a grave step for the department to take and it could have tremendous constitutional, political, and social ramifications for the country."
"Had this letter been released on official Department of Justice letterhead, it would have falsely informed all Americans, including those who might be inclined to come to Washington on Jan. 6, that President Trump's election fraud allegations were likely very real," Cheney said.
She also noted that the draft letter from Clark and Justice Department lawyer Kenneth Klukowski included signature lines for department leadership, though they refused to sign on to the plan.
Cheney previewed that at the end of the hearing, Americans will hear from three White House staffers who will identify certain members of Congress who sought presidential pardons for their conduct Jan. 6.
"There is much more to come, both in our hearings and in our report," she said.
Rep. Elaine Luria says Clark will be "central to today's hearings"
On the way to the hearing room, committee member Rep. Elaine Luria said former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark will be "central to today's hearings."
Luria said she was unaware beforehand of the search of Clark's home.
Thompson says witnesses will describe "brazen attempt" by Trump to use DOJ to advance his personal agenda
Thompson recapped how previous hearings have described Trump applying pressure "at every level of government, from local election workers up to his own vice president."
"Today, we'll tell the story of how the pressure campaign also targeted the federal agency charged with the enforcement of our laws, the Department of Justice," Thompson said.
Thompson pointed out that former Attorney General Bill Barr, in previously recorded video testimony, said the president wanted the DOJ to investigate election fraud claims that Barr thought were nonsense. When Barr resigned, Rosen, one of the former DOJ officials testifying Thursday, was appointed to lead the agency. The witnesses testifying Thursday "resisted Mr. Trump's effort to misuse the Justice Department as part of his plan to hold onto power," Thompson said.
"Donald Trump didn't just want the Justice Department to investigate," Thompson said. "He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies. … And when these and other efforts failed, Donald Trump sought to replace Mr. Rosen, the acting attorney general, with a lawyer who he believed would inappropriately put the full weight of the Justice Department behind the effort to overturn the election."
Thompson called the president's efforts a "brazen attempt to use the Justice Department to advance the president's personal political agenda."
Former assistant attorney general will say top DOJ officials concluded there was "no evidence of widespread voter fraud"
Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general, is expected to testify that he and others at the Justice Department maintained their commitment to the Constitution and the laws of the United States "before and after the election of November 2020," according to written testimony obtained by CBS News.
"Following the November 2020 election, in an effort to promote confidence in the election results, Attorney General Barr authorized the department to review and, where appropriate, to investigate reports of fraud and irregularities as they came in," Engel is expected to say. "The department's senior officials ultimately concluded that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud on a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the election, and Attorney General Barr reported that publicly in early December."
Engel, according to the obtained testimony, will also say Trump had "every right" to pursue litigation, but absent credible evidence, the DOJ didn't get involved in election contests.
Yet, Engel will testify, one of the assistant attorneys general, Jeff Clark, "took a different view."
"Mr. Clark believed that the department should publicly assert that the election results had been marred by fraud and should urge several of the states to replace their previously certified electors," Engel is expected to say.
— Rob Legare and Kathryn Watson
Federal investigators serving subpoenas to those tied to false electors
CBS News has confirmed that federal investigators have been serving subpoenas and showing up at locations connected to people who may have participated in efforts to use "invalid electors".
FBI officials would not discuss the investigation, but federal agents have issued subpoenas at, at least two locations -- one in Georgia and another in Virginia. The subpoenas signal the widening probe into how political activists attempted to help then-President Donald Trump overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 victory.
The FBI nor the Justice Department would comment. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said it does not confirm the existence of investigations and has no comment.
Lawyer for Trump documentary filmmaker says there were "inconsistencies" in Ivanka Trump's testimony and to film crew
Alex Holder, a British filmmaker who conducted interviews with Trump and his family for a documentary during the former president's re-election bid, met behind closed doors with the select committee Thursday and told reporters following his deposition that he turned over all requested footage to the panel.
According to the New York Times, Ivanka Trump told the film crew in mid-December 2020 that the former president should "continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted," which differed from her testimony to the select committee. CBS News has confirmed the Times' account.
In her interview with House investigators that has been shown at earlier public hearings, Ivanka Trump said she "accepted" then-Attorney Bill Barr's conclusion that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Asked about the inconsistencies between Ivanka Trump's comments to the film crew and her testimony to the select committee, Holder said there were "certainly differences in the things that she says."
Russell Smith, Holder's lawyer, said there were "inconsistencies" in Ivanka Trump's remarks.
"That's why we're cooperating with the committee, and they can determine whether there was perjury or something less than that," Smith told reporters.
Rosen will tell committee argument that election was stolen and corrupt is "wrong"
Former acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, who took over after William Barr announced his resignation, will tell the committee that "the Justice Department maintained the position that the Department had been presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election," according to his statement obtained by CBS News. This mirrors what Barr told the committee, video of which has been shown at previous public hearings.
"We also insisted that there must be an orderly and peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution," Rosen will say. "In particular, during my tenure, we appointed no special prosecutors; sent no letters to States or State legislators disputing the election outcome; and made no public statements saying the election was corrupt and should be overturned. We initiated no Supreme Court actions, nor filed or joined any other lawsuits, calling into question the legitimacy of our election and institutions."
Although some argued to Trump and the public that the 2020 election was "corrupt and stolen," Rosen will say "that view was wrong then and it is wrong today, and I hope our presence here today helps reaffirm that fact."
January 6 hearing to focus on Trump's push for DOJ to help overturn 2020 election
During its fifth public hearing on Thursday, the House select committee investigating January 6 will focus on efforts by former President Donald Trump to influence the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election results. CBS News' Trinity Chavez joins "CBS News Mornings" with a preview.
January 6 committee to hold fifth public hearing today, focusing on Trump's Justice Department
The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is holding its fifth public hearing today. Witnesses are expected to focus on how former President Trump tried to use the Justice Department to bolster his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion joins anchors Anne-Marie Green and Errol Barnett with more on the committee's ongoing investigation.
Jan. 6 panel to hear from former DOJ officials
The House committee investigating the Capitol attack will convene for its fifth hearing Tuesday. Lawmakers will focus on former President Trump's pressure campaign on the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election. It comes as the committee is also set to meet with a documentary filmmaker who has new footage from inside the Trump White House. Chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa reports.
Thompson says he "redid" Mo Brooks' subpoena
House Jan. 6 committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters on Wednesday evening that he "redid" the panel's subpoena to Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama. The committee wasn't able to serve Brooks and the subpoena expired.
Brooks is one of only five House Republicans subpoenaed in May 2021 who hasn't been successfully served.
Brooks on Tuesday night lost the Republican primary for Senate in Alabama to Katie Britt, who Trump backed. Trump disavowed Brooks, who had earlier received Trump's endorsement.
— Ellis Kim and Caroline Linton
Thompson says Ginni Thomas has responded to committee request to speak with her
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters Wednesday that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, had responded to their request to speak with her, but Thompson didn't elaborate further.
"Well, she's answered our letter, and we look forward to continued engagement with her," Thompson said.
He said the committee has not decided under what format she would testify.
— Ellis Kim and Caroline Linton
Thompson says next two hearings will be held in July
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said Wednesday that the next two public hearings are likely to be held in July, when the House returns for the July 4 recess.
Thompson said the committee adjusted its schedule after receiving "additional information" from documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, and additional production from the National Archives. Thompson also left open the possibility the committee could add more hearings.
"Right now, we just have to see what the review of the documents tell us," he said.
Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin told reporters on Wednesday that although the committee had initially wanted to have the hearings in June, but there has been a "deluge of new evidence since we got started."
"And we just need to catch our breath, go through the new evidence and then incorporate it into the hearings we had planned," Raskin said.
Thompson said the committee will "probably" let the Justice Department review the material they have gathered — but only after the committee has wrapped.
"We'll keep the documents," Thompson said. "You know, they're our product. Now if they want to come and have an opportunity to sit and review them and, and that kind of thing, I think we can work that out."
— Ellis Kim and Caroline Linton
Fourth House Jan. 6 committee hearing focuses on "fake electors" and threats to public servants amid Trump pressure campaign
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Tuesday's hearing detailed the threats made to state lawmakers and election officials and workers in Arizona and Georgia, as President Donald Trump and his allies tried to get them to overturn the election results in their states.
The committee sought on Tuesday to bring to light the severity of the threat to democracy in the days and weeks after the election, given the enormous and persistent pressure by the president and by Rudy Giuliani on officials and ordinary Americans to promote the "big lie" that Trump had won the election. The ability of these Americans to withstand that pressure came at a great personal cost.
"Our democracy held because courageous people like you heard today put their oath to the constitution above their loyalty to one man," Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff said. "The system held but barely and the question remains, will it hold again?"
The hearing laid out the plan hatched by Trump and his allies in Arizona to replace the bona fide Biden electors with phony ones. The fake electors gathered in Arizona, which Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers referred to as a "tragic parody." Bowers refused to have any involvement in the fake electors plan being pushed by Giuliani.
Texts showed by Schiff revealed that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin could also have played a part in the false electors scheme. The texts, between Johnson's chief of staff and an aide to Pence, showed Johnson's aide informing Pence's aide that the senator was ready to deliver fraudulent ballots to Pence. "Do not give that to him," Pence's aide responded.
Third Jan. 6 committee hearing focuses on Trump's attempt to push Pence to overturn election results
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol turned its attention to former President Donald Trump's campaign to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes on Thursday, hearing testimony from close Pence aides who said the president's efforts to overturn the 2020 election were nonsensical and "un-American."
"Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal, he knew it was wrong," Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said to open the third day of hearings examining the Capitol attack. "We are fortunate for Mr. Pence's courage on January 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe."
Two Pence advisers appeared in person at Thursday's hearing: Greg Jacob, Pence's former counsel, and J. Michael Luttig, a highly respected conservative jurist and retired federal judge who advised Pence in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The committee also showed taped footage of interviews with Pence chief of staff Marc Short and other aides.
The testimony made clear that Pence and his closest aides repeatedly told Trump and his allies that a theory pushed by conservative lawyer, who argued the vice president should single-handedly reject or replace slates of electors, had no basis in the Constitution or federal law.
Second House Jan. 6 committee hearing examines Trump's false election claims in public hearing
The Housecommittee focused its second public hearing on those closest to former President Donald Trump who said they told him it was too premature to declare victory on election night in 2020 — and how Trump used his premature declaration of victory to push baseless claims that the election was stolen.
The committee showed video testimony from top officials in the Trump administration who said former Vice President Mike Pence and White House were aware there was no evidence to support Trump's claims of voter fraud.
Former Attorney Generalsaid in recorded video testimony that he knew early claims that Trump had won the election were "bogus" and "silly."
"The department, in fact, when we received specific and credible allegations of fraud, made an effort to look into these to satisfy ourselves that they were without merit," Barr said in recorded testimony.
Committee chair U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson said in his opening statement that they would "tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election, and knew he lost an election and as a result of his loss decided to wage an attack on our democracy, an attack on the American people, by trying to rob you of your voice in our democracy — and in doing so, lit the fuse that led to the horrific violence of Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol."
House Jan. 6 committee opens public hearings with never-before-seen video and officer testimony: "It was a war scene"
The House select committee investigating theon the U.S. Capitol kicked off the first in a series of public hearings with never-before-seen footage from the attack that day as well as clips of videotaped testimony from some of people in former President Donald Trump's orbit, including his daughter Ivanka Trump.
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice chair Rep., in their opening statements, detailed how many Trump administration officials themselves did not believe the former president's baseless claims of a stolen election.
Former Attorney General, for example, told the Jan. 6 committee in his testimony that he told Trump his claims of a stolen election were "bullsh**." Ivanka Trump said she "trusted" that there was no fraud because she respected Barr.
Cheney and Thompson called the events a "conspiracy" — and noted how many people were involved. In fact, Cheney said there were Republican members of Congress who sought pardons for their actions on Jan. 6.
Witnesses also includedCaroline Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during the assault.