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Former Justice Department Officials Threaten to Resign at Trump Meeting in Detail

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An illustration of a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House appears on screen during a hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Capitol Attack in Washington on Thursday.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images


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Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

An illustration of a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House appears on screen during a hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Capitol Attack in Washington on Thursday.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Witnesses at today’s hearing revealed details of a dramatic meeting in the Oval Office on January 3, 2021, in which top Justice Department officials banded together to stop Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer at the Justice Department, from replacing Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

Trump sought to appoint Clark as his ally in order to use the powers of the Justice Department to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The meeting came a day after Clark told Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue that Trump had asked him to consider replacing Rosen. Clark doubled down on allegations of electoral fraud and acknowledged that he continued to negotiate with Trump despite reassuring the couple a week earlier that he would not engage in conversations with the president.

On January 3, Clark told Rosen that “the dates had been pushed back” and that Trump had offered him the top job, and he accepted. Following this meeting, Rosen called then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to arrange a meeting with the President that same night. The meeting was attended by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Steven Engel, Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Before the meeting with Trump, Donoghue held a conference call with assistant attorneys general and asked what they would do if Clark was named head of the department. He testified that those present at the meeting “declared that they would resign en masse.”

A tense meeting began a few hours later.

Rosen said that Trump “turned to me and said, ‘Well, one thing we know, Rosen, you’re not going to do anything. could do something,” referring to Clark.

“I said, ‘Well, Mr. President, you are right that I will not allow the Department of Justice to do anything to try to cancel the election. It’s true,” Rosen recalled. “But the reason for this is that it is in line with the facts and the law, and that is what is required under the Constitution.”

Donoghue eventually joined the meeting and remembered Trump asking, “What do I have to lose?” in replacing Rosen with Clark.

“Actually, it was a good start, because I said:“ Mr. President, you have something to lose, ”he testified. “I began to explain to him what to lose, what to lose to the country and what to lose to the department, and this was not in anyone’s interests. This conversation went on for some time. own thoughts, all of which were consistent about how damaging it would be to the country.”

The conversation turned to whether Clark had the right to run the Justice Department.

“It was a heated conversation. I thought it would be helpful to point out to the president that Jeff Clark simply didn’t have the skills, abilities, and experience to run the department,” Donoghue testified.

“I said: “Mr. President, you are talking about the appointment of a person who has never considered criminal cases, who has never conducted criminal investigations. , including the entire FBI – and turn this place into a penny and conduct nationwide criminal investigations that will yield results in a matter of days. It’s impossible. This is absurd. It won’t happen and it will fail.”

Donoghue said Trump asked him what he would do if he replaced Rosen with Clark.

“I said, ‘Mr President, I will retire immediately. I don’t work a minute for this guy,” he replied.

Engel echoed this: “I’ve been with you through four attorneys general, including two acting attorneys general, but I couldn’t be involved in this,” he told Trump.

Donoghue told Trump he would lose “his entire department” if he went any further.

“Within 24, 48, 72 hours, you can get hundreds and hundreds of resignations from the leadership of your entire Ministry of Justice because of your actions. What does that say about you?” Donoghue remembers asking.

According to Donoghue, Cipollone supported the Justice Department and said that Clark’s plan to send a letter to the states about electoral fraud was a “murder-suicide” pact.

Donoghue said that Clark would “be left to run the graveyard”, a statement he said influenced Trump, who ultimately decided not to fire Rosen.

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