Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Jan 6 Committee Details on Trump’s DOJ Coup attempt

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Shreya Christina
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Donald Trump spent the last few weeks before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol recklessly back and forth between conspiracy theories and rejecting anyone who tried to intervene.

During the Jan. 6 Select Committee hearing, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) described Trump’s activities as “essentially a political coup.” And it almost was, but the effort the committee was making seemed to stem from a bizarre black comedy, with every detail more ridiculous than the last.

The hearing room occasionally burst out laughing at the fruitless efforts of Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to seize control of the department and overturn the election.

Clark allied with Trump, going through Trump allies and around his own bosses, becoming an integral part of their plot to overthrow the election by appointing fake swing state voters to replace the legitimate voters who would be on January 6. counted. Clark was willing to execute a plan that no one in line to become attorney general would touch, and that put him in a position to move up to a job that would otherwise be out of reach. That plot was the central focus of Thursday’s hearing.

Those in attendance chuckled as Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen described his reaction when his then-subordinate Clark asked him to stay as to be subordinate when Clark took him over. “I didn’t accept that offer,” Rosen said.

It felt more like a Friars Club roast sometimes a congressional hearing, as top Republican lawyers repeatedly described mocking Clark’s efforts at the Oval Office meeting Rosen demanded once he got wind of Trump and Clark’s plans.

The commission showed footage of former White House counsel Eric Herschmann ranting at Clark, describing his proposal as “tacky” and sharing how he said of the environmental attorney, “The best I can tell you is the only thing you can do.” know about environmental and election challenges they both start with E. And based on your answers tonight, I’m not even sure you know.’ Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who testified in person, described Clark’s legal experience of directly denigrating Trump. When Clark tried to respond, Donoghue sneered, “You’re an environmental lawyer. Go back to your office and we’ll call you if there’s an oil leak?’

But for that meeting, Clark was about to succeed. The White House appears to have considered the deal closed: It listed Clark in their call log as acting attorney general before the meeting. Trump only withdrew when other Justice and White House officials made it clear to him that Clark’s appointment would turn the Justice Department into “a graveyard,” with massive layoffs.

Steven Engel, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, insisted it would be a Trump public relations disaster, among all the other negative consequences of trying to undo the election. “All anyone will think is you went through two attorney generals in two weeks until you found the environmental guy to sign this thing,” he said of the letter Clark wanted to send to the swingstates.

By giving a full account of Trump’s failed efforts, the commission showed an increasingly desperate man pursuing increasingly bizarre justifications to undo the election. They revealed that acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller personally investigated a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites operated from the US embassy in Rome swapped Trump’s votes for Biden with the help of MI6 and the CIA. “Sheer madness,” Donoghue said of the video sent to him about the theory. Trump also asked the DOJ and the Homeland Security Department to confiscate voting machines based on another conspiracy theory.

Just hours after the decisive Oval Office meeting, where Trump was told he would not appoint Clark to head the Justice Department, thus thwarting a coup attempt, Trump called Donoghue again. This call was about a new allegation that an Immigration and Customs officer had found a truckload of shredded ballots from Georgia.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr had, in previously released impeachment footage, Trump’s persistence in seeking new election fraud claims was compared to a game of “whack-a-mole.” We saw on Thursday how badly that underestimated Trump’s understated commitment to find an excuse to hold on to power.

But when Trump behaved recklessly, disregarding the law or historical precedents, we learned that some of the allies involved in supporting his plot saw a reason to fear the consequences. The committee also shared footage of White House officials testifying that several members of Congress sought a pardon from Trump after Jan. 6, including Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz ( R-AL), FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Scott Perry (R-PA). All had attended a White House meeting in late December to plan for the January 6 uprising.

None of those members now say they were really concerned about what they had done. Gaetz point to a tweet described the commission as “an unconstitutional political sideshow”, a spokesman for Greene shared a tweet that characterized the committee as involved in “gossip and lies,” while a Brooks spokesperson said in a statement, “There was a concern that Democrats would abuse the justice system by prosecuting and imprisoning Republicans acting in accordance with their constitutional or statutory duties.” to put.” In a statement, Perry said, “I stand by my statement that I have never asked for a presidential pardon for myself or any other member of Congress.” gohmert said in a statement“I had and have nothing for which I can ask for a pardon and my requests were for others who had no ties to the government in Washington, DC.” biggs refused he also asked for a pardon.

In his last days in office, Trump handed out pardons ‘like Christmas presents’, such as… Axios reported: at the time, even suggesting that he could forgive “anyone who ever spoke to me.” He pardoned allies including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former top White House aide Steve Bannon and seven former members of the Republican Congress for a variety of past violations. But he did not forgive anyone involved in attempts to undo the 2020 election.

During the hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) portrayed the pardon request as a tacit admission of guilt. “The only reason, I know, for asking for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” he said.

Thursday’s hearing, for all its unintentional comedy, did more than any before to show how deadly serious Trump’s efforts to topple the election were — and to show how little separated him from achieving that. Bold officials in Trump’s own administration enacted one plan to undo the January 3 election. Of course, a more violent backup plan lay ahead.

But the DOJ plot illustrated, as Kinzinger said at the start of Thursday’s hearing, “how close we were to losing almost everything.”

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