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Jan. 6 hearing highlights: DOJ officials detail Trump push to install loyalist Jeffrey Clark

The effort came amid public and private pressure from the president for the department to give credence to bogus claims of election fraud ahead of Jan. 6, the officials testified.

The Jan. 6 committee focused its fifth hearing on then-President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure the Justice Department to aid in his campaign to overturn the 2020 election.

The efforts, public and private, culminated in an Oval Office meeting just days ahead of the Jan. 6 riot in which top Justice officials threatened to resign if Trump went through with a plan to install Jeffrey Clark atop the agency because he was willing to assist in Trump's plans.

Three former senior Justice Department officials who rebuffed Trump at the time testified live: Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, who led the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Thursday's hearing is the last one this month after the committee decided to push the final scheduled hearings into July, a move lawmakers said would allow more time to process new information.

Key highlights from Day 5:

Catch up on Day 1Day 2Day 3 and Day 4 of the hearings.

523d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

Kinzinger: ‘Allegation of a stolen election was a lie’

523d ago / 10:36 PM UTC

Trump hits back against committee

During Thursday's hearing, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to slam the committee and its methods.

"Has there ever been a time in Congress where a member is allowed, without any cross examination of any kind, to read lengthy and often untruthful statements, not from notes or other papers, BUT FROM A TELEPROMPTER?" Trump posted.

"This is a Kangaroo Court the likes of which we have never seen in this Country!" he added.

Trump also repeated false and disproven claims about voter fraud and referred to the movie “2000 Mules.”

"Such lies by the Unselects!" he wrote.

523d ago / 10:27 PM UTC

Sen. Ron Johnson blames GOP congressman for texts between top staffer and former Pence aide


Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on Thursday addressed texts between his chief of staff and an aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence about an alternate slate of electors.

Earlier this week, after the committee revealed the text message exchange, Johnson said he didn't know where the alternate slate of electors came from. But in an interview with a local conservative radio show on Thursday, Johnson said he was able to "refresh" his memory.

"We found out now this came from Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly’s office. We couldn’t even remember who delivered this to us," Johnson said. "We didn’t know what it was, we thought it was documents involved in the electors. Once we got it, again I didn’t know it, I was probably already up in the Senate. OK? So they found out they were the alternate slate of electors. Not only from Wisconsin, but from Michigan, which is odd. You know."

Matt Knoedler, Kelly's press secretary, however, quickly denied having anything to do with the alternate slate of electors.

"Senator Johnson’s statements about Representative Kelly are patently false," Knoedler said in a statement Thursday. "Mr. Kelly has not spoken to Sen. Johnson for the better part of a decade, and he has no knowledge of the claims Mr. Johnson is making related to the 2020 election."

523d ago / 10:03 PM UTC

GOP Rep. Brooks, who allegedly sought Trump pardon, says he would sit for deposition — if committee meets his conditions

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who sought a presidential pardon from Trump, according to committee testimony revealed Thursday, said after the hearing that he would agree to sit for a deposition if the panel meets certain conditions.

Brooks said that the deposition must be held in public and that the scope of questions posed to him must be relevant to and limited to events surrounding the attack on the Capitol.

He also said he would only accept a deposition in which questions are asked by members of Congress who serve on the committee and not by staffers or people who aren't lawmakers.

"If a deposition is important enough to demand the time of a Congressman who is deposed, then it is similarly important enough to also demand the time of Committee Congressmen," he said in a press release.

Brooks further said that the committee would need to provide him with documentation of any statements or communications the committee would want to ask him about at least seven days beforehand and said that any deposition must take place on a day that votes are being held on the House floor, when he'll be in Washington.

The Republican said he would only sit for a deposition if all of his conditions were met.

523d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

In closing remarks, Cheney pleads with Republicans to 'accept Trump abused your trust'

In closing remarks, Kinzinger said Trump's efforts to replace Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark were "a power play to win at all costs — with no regard for the will of the American people."

"Facts were clearly just an inconvenience," he added.

Cheney praised the witnesses and then turned her attention to the millions of Americans who voted for Trump.

"In these hearings so far, you have heard from more than a dozen Republicans who have told you what actually happened in the weeks before January 6th," she said. "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 was not true. But it is."

523d ago / 9:33 PM UTC

Gaetz, Gohmert, Biggs, Brooks, Perry: GOP lawmakers who allegedly sought pardons from Trump revealed in testimony

At least five House Republicans — including Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania — asked Trump’s White House for presidential pardons after the Capitol riot, according to testimony from former White House attorneys and aides shown by the Jan. 6 committee Thursday.

The White House discussed providing blanket pardons for any members who objected to the election results, according to testimony to the committee.

Five days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Brooks wrote an email to the White House, obtained by the committee, that said “pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz” he requested pardons for himself and “every congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral vote submissions from Arizona and Pennsylvania.”

The committee also showed video of testimony from Herschmann who, when asked if Gaetz requested a pardon, replied, “I believe so.”

The committee also showed another video of Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, saying that Gaetz, Brooks, Gohmert, Perry and Biggs had requested pardons. She said that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, had “talked about” pardons … but he never asked me for one.”

She said that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., never contacted her but that she’d “heard that [Greene] had asked White House Counsel’s Office for a pardon.”

Summing up that turn of events, Kinzinger said: “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime.”

NBC News has reached out to all six Republican members of Congress who allegedly sought pardons for comment.

When asked to confirm testimony that he sought a pardon, Gaetz's office pointed to a tweet the Florida Republican sent Thursday calling the committee an "unconstitutional political sideshow." His office did not say whether or not he sought the pardon.

Greene's office also pointed to a tweet. "Saying 'I heard' means you don’t know," Greene tweeted, accusing the committee of spreading "gossip and lies."

523d ago / 9:28 PM UTC

Trump DOJ officials detail Oval Office meeting just before Jan. 6

On Jan. 3, top Justice Department officials such as Jeff Rosen and Richard Donoghue were summoned to the White House to meet with Trump in the Oval Office.

The meeting was entirely focused on changing the leadership at the Justice Department, Donoghue said. Jeffrey Clark was there as well, and he was advocating for a change that would lead to him running DOJ.

Donoghue said making such a change would hurt both Trump and the country. He said he repeatedly made the point that Clark was not qualified to run the Justice Department.

Trump seemed to back off when the Justice Department officials said there would be mass resignations if Clark was installed at the top.

523d ago / 9:24 PM UTC

Rosen, Donoghue said they did not speak to Trump on Jan. 6

Rosen and Donoghue said during their live testimony that they didn't speak to Trump on Jan. 6.

Rosen said that he spent the day at the Department of Justice and spoke to DOJ officials, Cabinet officials, officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Interior, congressional leaders and members of Congress. He also said he spoke to then-Vice President Mike Pence twice that day.

"I received calls from Speaker Pelosi, from Leader McCarthy, from Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell’s chief of staff called, a number of other members of Congress, as well," he said. "And you know, the basic thrust of the calls with members of Congress was — there’s a dire situation here and can you help."

Rosen said that DOJ sent more than 500 agents from the FBI, ATF and U.S. Marshals to "assist with restoring order to the Capitol."

Donoghue said he was at the Capitol to help reconvene the joint session at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and confirmed he also didn't speak to Trump that day.

523d ago / 9:22 PM UTC

Donoghue says he asked DOJ official in national security division not to participate in mass resignation plot

During a phone call that occurred before the contentious Jan. 3 White House meeting, Donoghue said that a group of assistant attorneys general all agreed they would resign en masse if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark. Donoghue said that he directed the assistant attorney general of the national security division, John Demers, not to resign.

Donoghue said the assistant attorneys general said they would resign “without hesitation” and that they would leave the department if Trump fired Rosen. He said that he told Demers not to resign because his position was too important to be left open.

523d ago / 9:14 PM UTC

Rosen: 'I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate'

Rosen described an unusual scenario in which Clark, knowing Trump wanted him to replace Rosen as attorney general, threatened to fire Rosen if he didn’t sign a fraudulent letter to elected officials in Georgia warning about voter fraud.

Rosen refused to sign the letter, and on the next day, Jan. 3, Clark told Rosen he’d accepted the president’s offer to be the new attorney general — a move Rosen objected to.

“I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate,” Rosen testified Thursday.

523d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

Trump defense secretary contacted an Italian official to ask about wild 'Italygate' conspiracy theory

The committee discussed the evolution of how an outrageous conspiracy theory involving the Italian government made its way through the Trump administration — and revealed that the Defense secretary sought answers on it from an Italian official.

The conspiracy theory involved Italians changing the U.S. election results and then loading them into “military satellites.” In response to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows passing along this theory, Richard Donoghue described it as "pure insanity."

"The Select Committee investigation found that this wild, baseless conspiracy theory made it from the recesses of the internet to the highest echelons of our government," Kinzinger said, pointing to a text from Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., to Meadows asking: "Why can’t we just work with the Italian government?”

Donoghue testified that Kash Patel, who was installed at the Defense Department late in Trump's term, called him and said, "I heard you were given some information by the chief of staff about this Italy thing. Can you tell me what this is all about?"

Kinzinger noted that Meadows did not simply advance the claim to the Justice Department, but sent it to the Defense Department too.

"As you will hear, Secretary [Christopher] Miller reached out to a high-ranking official based in Italy to follow up on this claim," he said. "The Select Committee confirmed that a call was actually placed by Secretary Miller to the attaché in Italy to investigate the claim that Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Biden."

"This is one of best examples of the lengths to which President Trump would go to stay in power. Scouring the internet for supporting conspiracy theories," he continued. "As Trump told Mr. Donoghue in that December 27th call, which Donoghue took notes on: “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do.”

523d ago / 9:08 PM UTC

The White House was referring to Jeffrey Clark as 'acting attorney general' by Jan. 3

White House call logs obtained by the committee showed that the White House had already started labeling Jeffrey Clark as the acting attorney general by Jan. 3.

Clark was not, in fact, the acting attorney general. But Trump allies were seeking to have him installed because he was more open to taking extrajudicial actions aimed at reversing the former president's loss.

523d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

'Agitated' Trump suggested Justice Department seize voting machines in New Year's Eve meeting, officials say

Kinzinger said Trump had "rushed back early from Mar-a-Lago" on New Year's Eve and "called an emergency meeting with the Department's leadership" — a meeting in which Trump floated the idea of seizing voting machines, top DOJ officials told the committee.

"The president was a little more agitated than he had been in the meeting on the 15th. He discussed a variety of election matters," Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, said in video testimony played during the hearing, adding that Trump said it would warrant the appointment of a special counsel. “There was a point at which the president said something about, ‘Why don’t you guys seize machines?’"

Kinzinger then asked during the hearing what Rosen said to Trump after he asked them to seize voting machines. Rosen testified that he told the president that DOJ officials "had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines" and that the Department of Homeland Security had already explored any potential issues.

Rosen said he told Trump that it wouldn't be appropriate to seize voting machines, and added during his live testimony, "I don't think there was legal authority either."

"The president was very agitated by the acting attorney general's response," Donoghue said after Kinzinger asked how Trump reacted to Rosen, and added that Rosen told Trump that DHS has expertise in certifying voting machines.

"And since DHS had been mentioned, the president yelled out to the secretary, 'Get Ken Cuccinelli on the phone.' And she did in very short order," Donoghue continued. "Mr. Cuccinelli was on the phone. He was number two at DHS at the time. I was on the speakerphone and the president essentially said, 'Ken, I'm sitting here with the acting attorney general and he just told me it's your job to seize machines and you're not doing your job. And Mr. Cuccinelli responded."

523d ago / 8:42 PM UTC

Kinzinger discusses Trump having considered naming Sidney Powell special counsel

Kinzinger said the committee's investigation found that Trump "went as far as to promise the job of special counsel to now-discredited former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell" in a meeting on Dec. 18, 2020.

In testimony to the committee that was played Thursday, Powell said Trump "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 in our republic."

NBC News reported at the time on Trump considering Powell such a role in late 2020.

"Let’s think here," Kinzinger said. "What would a special counsel do? With only days to go until the election certification, it sure wasn’t to investigate anything. An investigation led by a special counsel would just create an illusion of legitimacy and provide fake cover for those who want to object, including those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6."

"All of President Trump’s plans for the Justice Department were being rebuffed by Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue, Mr. Engel, and others," he continued. "The president became desperate entering into the new year with Jan. 6 fast approaching."

523d ago / 8:42 PM UTC

Email suggests Eastman and DOJ new hire Klukowski wanted to brief Pence on undermining election

Before taking a brief recess, the committee discussed Ken Klukowski, a lawyer hired by the Justice Department in mid-December, after Trump had lost the election, who they said worked with both Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman to try to overturn the election.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., revealed the existence of an email from former Ohio Secretary of State and longtime conservative activist Ken Blackwell recommending that Klukowski and Eastman brief Pence and his staff.

“As stated last week, I believe the VP and his staff would benefit greatly from a briefing by John and Ken," Blackwell wrote. "As I also mentioned, make sure we don’t overexpose Ken given his new position."

One of the recipients of the email, Cheney noted, was Connie Hair, the chief of staff to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Moments earlier, the committee showed an email from Clark outlining how a proposed special session of the Georgia Legislature could help advance Trump’s plan to overturn the election results. Klukowksi worked directly under Clark, Cheney said.

Cheney said the two emails suggest ”that Mr. Klukowski was simultaneously working with Jeffrey Clark to draft the proposed letter to Georgia officials to overturn their certified election and working with Dr. Eastman to help pressure the Vice President to overturn the election.”

523d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

Trump sent Engel draft lawsuit he wanted filed to SCOTUS

The committee revealed Thursday that Trump sent Engel a draft lawsuit that the president wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court.

“He wanted you, Mr. Rosen, and Mr. Cipollone specifically to review. You and the Department opposed filing it,” Kinzinger said, as text of the draft was shown.

Engel and the agency's Office of Legal Counsel wrote in talking points designed to rebut Trump that “there is no legal basis to bring this lawsuit.”

“Anyone who thinks otherwise simply does not know the law, much less the Supreme Court,” Engel wrote, the text of which was also displayed on screen.

523d ago / 8:21 PM UTC

Donoghue puts GOP Rep. Scott Perry at the center of effort to install Clark at DOJ

Rep. Scott Perry, the Pennsylvania Republican now heading the House Freedom Caucus, was intimately involved in the effort to replace acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen at the Justice Department with Jeff Clark, text messages presented by the committee as well as testimony from Richard Donoghue showed.

On Dec. 26, 2020, Perry messaged White House chief of staff Mark Meadows asking him to "call Jeff, I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won't work with the FBI."

Clark messaged again two days later: "Did you call Jeff Clark?"

The day of Perry's Dec. 26 outreach to Meadows, he called Donoghue "at the behest" of Trump, Donoghue testified, adding that Perry made false fraud claims during that conversation including that more votes were counted in Pennsylvania than were actually cast.

523d ago / 8:04 PM UTC

'Say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me': Donoghue details 'direct quotes' from Trump

Donoghue revealed his notes of a conversation with Trump that suggest the former president, with help from several Republicans in Congress, was set on overturning the results of the 2020 election.

Donoghue testified that he took notes during a Dec. 27, 2020, conversation he had with Trump and Rosen in which Trump made several damning statements regarding how he planned to overturn the election results. The committee then displayed portions of the notes on screen.

After Rosen, according to Donoghue’s notes, told Trump that “the DOJ can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election,” Trump replied with his plan: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

Donoghue told the committee Thursday that was a “direct quote” from the then-president, according to his notes.

“We have obligation to tell the people that this was an illegal, corrupt election,” Trump told Donoghue at another point, according to Donoghue’s notes.

523d ago / 8:03 PM UTC

Donoghue says he took notes during call with Trump who kept raising election fraud claims

Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said during live testimony that he was on a 90-minute call with Trump on Dec. 27, 2020, in which he repeatedly shot down numerous allegations raised by the president about a stolen election.

Donoghue said he grabbed a notepad from his wife's nightstand when Trump made an allegation he hadn't heard before and started taking notes.

"He had this arsenal of allegations that he wanted to, to rely on. And so I felt in that conversation that it was incumbent on me to make it very clear to the president what our investigations hadn’t revealed — that we had concluded based on actual investigations, actual witness interviews, actual reviews of documents, that these allegations simply had no merit and I wanted to try to cut through the noise," Donoghue told the committee during the hearing.

Donoghue said it was "very clear" that there were a lot of people conveying conspiracy theories to Trump and he said he wanted to be "very blunt in that conversation" and tell the president these claims were false.

"I went piece by piece to say, 'No, that’s false. That is not true,' and to correct him, really in a serial fashion, as he moved from one theory to another, he said.

Donoghue said, for example, they discussed a report from Michigan that voting machines had a high error rate and told Trump that it wasn't true. He said they also went through a series of other claims such as a truck driver who claimed to have moved an entire tractor-trailer of ballots from New York to Pennsylvania.

"That was also incorrect," he said.

523d ago / 8:01 PM UTC

Jan. 6 committee using Trump's voice to show how DOJ was under pressure

The Jan. 6 committee repeatedly interspersed Trump's own words in their presentation on Thursday to show how he was pressuring the Justice Department to overturn the election.

The committee used multiple clips of Fox News interviews Trump gave, for instance, in which he said all that was needed to change his loss was for the Justice Department to start taking action.

Behind the scenes, it was clear members of the Justice Department were not willing to do so, starting with Attorney General William Barr and, after he resigned, Richard Donoghue and Jeff Rosen.

523d ago / 7:49 PM UTC

Laughs in the hearing room at Donoghue's 'we'll call you when there's an oil spill' retort

In clips of his video testimony played prior to being sworn in, Donoghue, along with other DOJ officials, described a contentious Oval Office meeting in early January that centered on the idea of Trump ousting acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer. Clark was also present.

“I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general. He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life,” said Donoghue.

When Clark responded that he had experience in appeals and both civil and environmental litigation, Donoghue said he responded, “‘That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.’”

523d ago / 7:48 PM UTC

Committee shows video of Republican lawmakers spreading election lies after Barr debunked fraud claims

The committee played a montage of pro-Trump members of Congress making false claims about the election, even after then-Attorney General Bill Barr publicly said that those allegations had no merit.

Lawmakers seen in the video montage claiming that Trump had won the election and that widespread voter fraud affected the 2020 election included Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas; Matt Gaetz of Florida; Mo Brooks of Alabama; Jim Jordan of Ohio; and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

"Ignoring the top law enforcement officer in the country, Republican congressmen amplified the stolen election message to the American public," Rep. Kinzinger said.

523d ago / 7:45 PM UTC

Donoghue recalls Trump pressing him on bogus voting machine fraud claims

Donoghue said Thursday that Trump repeatedly pressed him about bogus reports of vote-flipping in Antrim County, Michigan.

Many election deniers in the months after the 2020 election seized upon claims that Dominion voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden in the county. On election night, results posted in the county showed Biden with a lead and quickly reversed to showing Trump ahead.

The issue there was ultimately human error — the results were initially entered corresponding to the opposite candidate. The error was quickly fixed and claims of a conspiracy in the overwhelmingly pro-Trump county were dispelled in a GOP-led Michigan state Senate investigation last year.

523d ago / 7:40 PM UTC

Documentarian who followed Trump in election season releases new footage

British documentary filmmaker Alex Holder released a one-minute clip on Twitter from his three-part series on Trump's 2020 presidential run titled "Unprecedented."

The clip comes one day after his legal counsel issued a statement that Holder had agreed to comply with the Jan. 6 committee's subpoena to testify and allowed his footage to be shown during the hearings.

The video shows Trump in the White House on Dec. 5, 2020, and in the moments leading up to an interview, he cannot make up his mind if he wants a small end table with a glass of water in the camera shot. After making someone remove the table and glass, Trump says this:

"You know what you can do, Nick? Put the table back because it's missing something and put the water on the table without the thing on top of it."

Trump continues to fiddle with the position of the glass before saying "Right? Let's go." Above the video, Holder tweeted: "The Trumps did not have editorial control. Full stop."

The series is poised to be released this summer after it was acquired by a major streaming service.

523d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

Cipollone called Clark's letter a 'murder-suicide pact,' DOJ official says


Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone was deeply concerned about the letter DOJ official Jeffrey Clark had drafted to the states questioning the 2020 election results, acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said in video testimony played by the committee.

Donoghue said that Cipollone called the letter “a murder-suicide pact” and said that the White House should have “nothing to do with that letter,” and that he “never” wanted to see that letter again.

"It’s going to damage everyone who touches it," Donoghue recalled Cipollone saying.

Cheney, at the close of the previous hearing, pressed Cipollone to testify publicly. She has previously said that Cipollone seems to have acted properly when faced with pressure to undermine the election results.

A person close to Cipollone told NBC News earlier this week: “Pat has been cooperative with the committee with President Trump’s permission, but there are serious institutional concerns and privilege issues and those have been recognized by the committee.”

523d ago / 7:34 PM UTC

Addressing fellow Republicans, Kinzinger urged them to think about a biased DOJ

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who is playing a central role in Thursday's hearing, issued a frank plea to his fellow Republicans.

"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," Kinzinger said.

He added, "Today, President Trump’s total disregard for the Constitution and his oath will be fully exposed."

523d ago / 7:31 PM UTC

Barr says he doubted transition would have happened if he hadn't investigate Trump's fraud claims

In video testimony played at Thursday's hearing, Barr said he quickly authorized a Justice Department investigation into potential voter fraud in the 2020 election because he felt that waiting to do so would have jeopardized the presidential transition.

Asked by Cheney why he didn’t wait to investigate Trump’s false claims of voter fraud until after Biden was inaugurated, Barr said he wanted to make sure the department could conclusively tell Trump and his allies that no such fraud existed —and that any delay could have resulted in Trump holding onto power.

"Frankly I think the fact that I put myself in the position that I could say that we had looked at this and didn’t think there was fraud was really important to moving things forward,” Barr said.

“I sort of shudder to think what the situation would have been if the position of the department was 'we’re not even looking at this until after Biden’s in office,'” he said. “I’m not sure we would have had a transition at all.”

523d ago / 7:28 PM UTC

Who are the witnesses at Thursday's hearing?

Three witnesses are scheduled to testify at Thursday's hearing before the Jan. 6 committee with a keen focus on a letter Trump wanted them to sign in order to convince six state legislatures to overturn statewide election results.

Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting Attorney General

After having served as the deputy attorney general, Rosen ascended to acting Attorney General in December 2020 when William Barr resigned. Three days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, Rosen arranged a meeting with Trump upon learning that the president wanted to replace him with DOJ member Jeffrey Clark, who was supporting Trump's election lies.

Steven Engel, former Assistant Attorney General

During the 2020 election, Engel served as the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. In his Oct. 13, 2021, testimony in front of the Jan. 6 committee, Engel said that he told Trump that he would resign if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark.

Richard Donoghue, former Acting Deputy Attorney General

The committee has already shown numerous clips from Donoghue's deposition in which he debunks Trump's bogus claims of election fraud.

In the lead-up to Jan. 6, Donoghue also told Trump that he would resign if Clark were instated as the acting attorney general upon Rosen's firing.

523d ago / 7:27 PM UTC

DOJ officials describe pushing back on Trump's plan and Clark's qualifications in contentious Jan. 3 meeting

The committee played a montage of video testimony from former Justice Department and White House officials describing a meeting they had with then-President Trump on Jan. 3, 2021, as he was considering appointing a new attorney general who would back his fraud claims.

Trump was considering replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, officials said, something Clark was pushing for.

Rosen said that during the meeting, Trump "looked at me and he underscored: 'Well, the one thing we know is you’re not going to do anything. You don’t even agree that the concerns that are being presented are valid. And here is someone who has a different view, so why shouldn’t I do that, you know?'"

Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said that Clark's idea — that he should replace Rosen — "was asinine," Herschmann told the committee.

Donoghue told the committee that Clark "repeatedly" said to Trump that if he became attorney general, "He would conduct real investigations that would, in his view, uncover widespread fraud. He would send out the letter that he had drafted and that this was a last opportunity to sort of set things straight with this defective election."

Donoghue and Herschmann both said they questioned Clark's qualifications to hold the position of attorney general. "I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general. He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life," said Donoghue.

When Clark responded that he had experience in appeals and both civil and environmental litigation, Donoghue said he responded, "'That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.'"

Herschmann said that at that point, he "cross-examined" Clark in front of Trump to walk through his strategy for overturning the election.

"I thought Clark's proposal was nuts," Herschmann said. "I mean, here’s a guy that, at a certain point, you know, listen, the best I can tell is the only thing you know about environmental and election challenges is they both start with E. And based on your answers tonight, I’m not even certain you know that."

523d ago / 7:21 PM UTC

Trump White House lawyer Herschmann told Clark his election plan was criminal

The committee played video testimony of Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann who described a Jan. 3, 2021, meeting at the White House and the plan by Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to overturn the election.

"When he finished discussing what he planned on doing, I said, good fucking— excuse me, sorry, effing a-hole, congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you would take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6(e). You’re clearly the right candidate for this job," Herschmann told the committee.

Trump wanted to replace then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, who had indicated he would go along with Trump's desire to subvert the election results. After several Trump DOJ officials threatened to quit, Trump decided against appointing Clark.

523d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

Kinzinger: Leaders must be willing to 'sacrifice' political careers to protect country

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois opened his statement with an unsubtle reference to the merits of sacrifice.

Kinzinger — just one of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee and one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump during his second impeachment — said elected leaders must be willing to sacrifice their political careers if maintaining their oath of office requires it and referred to his service in Iraq.

“A big reason I decided to run for Congress was my motivation to help ensure freedom and democracy were defended overseas. I remember making a commitment — out loud a few times, in my heart repeatedly, even to today — that if we’re going to ask Americans to be willing to die in service to our country, we as leaders must at least be willing to sacrifice our political careers when integrity and our oath requires it,” he said. “After all, losing a job is nothing compared to losing your life.”

Kinzinger, who is not seeking re-election, has paid an enormous political price for standing up to Trump. He was formally censured by his own party, has faced numerous attacks from Trump and has received violent threats.

523d ago / 7:14 PM UTC

Hearing highlights DOJ official Jeff Clark's draft letter to states falsely warning of fraud

Ranking member Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., highlighted the draft letter Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark had planned to send to Georgia and other states that indicated there were concerns about the election outcome when in fact, the agency had investigated and found none.

"As you will see, this letter claims that the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigations have 'identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia,'" Cheney said, adding that Trump knew that was a lie because multiple officials had already informed him that no fraud had been found.

Cheney continued to read from the letter, which said, "'In light of these developments, the Department recommends that the Georgia General Assembly should convene in special session' and consider approving a new slate of electors," she said. "And it indicates that a separate 'fake slate of electors supporting Donald Trump' has already been 'transmitted to Washington, D.C.'"

Cheney said that former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, one of the hearing's witnesses, told the committee that when he saw the draft letter, he wrote, "This would be a grave step for the Department to take and it could have tremendous constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country."

523d ago / 7:14 PM UTC

Committee will show testimony identifying members of Congress who sought pardons after Jan. 6

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said during her opening statement that the committee will show evidence at the end of today's hearing that identifies members of Congress who requested a presidential pardon after Jan. 6.

"At the close of today’s hearing, we will see video testimony by three members of Donald Trump’s White House staff," she said. "They will identify certain of the members of Congress who contacted the White House after Jan. 6 to seek presidential pardons for their conduct."

During the committee's first hearing this month, Cheney said that Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania was among multiple GOP lawmakers who requested a pardon from Trump.

524d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

Thompson gavels in hearing, outlines focus on Trump's pressure on Justice Dept.

After gaveling Thursday’s hearing to a start, Thompson outlined its focus: that the pressure campaign by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election included top figures at the Justice Department.

“We will show that Trump’s demands that the Department investigate baseless claims of election fraud continued into January 2021,” Thompson said, adding that the committee will hear on Thursday from several senior department officials who “resisted” Trump’s effort to “misuse” the agency “as part of his plan to hold onto power.”

“Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate. He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies,” he added. “To baselessly call the election corrupt” and “to appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud” and “to send a letter to six state legislatures urging them to consider altering the election results," Thompson said.

The hearing will also explore Trump's effort to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with another Justice Department lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, who was sympathetic to his election lies.

524d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

Actor Sean Penn is in attendance


Actor Sean Penn is attending the fifth hearing Thursday and was seen sitting with police officers who have previously testified about their harrowing experiences on Jan. 6.

Penn was seen sitting between D.C. Metro Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.

He's here as “just another citizen,” he told reporters. Asked what he thinks about the hearings, he said, “We all saw what happened" on Jan. 6 and "now we're looking to see justice.”

524d ago / 6:17 PM UTC

Thompson says Thursday's hearing will touch on pardon requests

Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, said the panel's fifth public hearing will include “conversations about pardons.”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, the Mississippi Democrat declined to say whether members of Congress who sought pardons from Trump would be named. "You must come to the hearing," Thompson said.

The committee's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said during the panel's first public hearing on June 9 that the panel had evidence Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and other GOP lawmakers “sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”

The committee last week laid out evidence that it said showed John Eastman, a Trump-allied lawyer, had requested his name be added to a "pardon list" in an email to Rudy Giuliani.

524d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Head of Jeffrey Clark's organization criticizes federal raid on his home

The head of the organization where Jeffrey Clark serves as a fellow, the Center for Renewing America, on Thursday criticized the move by federal law enforcement to raid Clark's home on Wednesday.

"The new era of criminalizing politics is worsening in the US. Yesterday more than a dozen DOJ law enforcement officials searched Jeff Clark’s house in a pre-dawn raid, put him in the streets in his pajamas, and took his electronic devices," said Russ Vought, the organization's president and Trump's former director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement.

"All because Jeff saw fit to investigate voter fraud. This is not America, folks. The weaponization of government must end. Let me be very clear. We stand by Jeff and so must all patriots in this country," Vought said.

524d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Jan. 6 committee re-issues subpoena to Rep. Mo Brooks

The chairman of the Jan. 6 committee said the panel has reissued a subpoena for GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who this week lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters Wednesday night that a subpoena for Brooks had expired during his Senate campaign, but that the renewed subpoena seeking Brooks' testimony was “the same document.”

“We hadn’t been able to serve him. He’s the only member we haven’t been able to serve,” Thompson said.

The committee last month announced subpoenas for five House GOP lawmakers, including Brooks, a onetime close ally of Trump who delivered remarks at the then-president's rally shortly before the Jan. 6 riot.

Brooks had previously rebuffed requests for information from the Jan. 6 committee. According to Thompson, Brooks at one point had indicated he "wanted to talk" to the committee when Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks in the Senate race, "and we gave him an opportunity, but obviously he continued to campaign."

524d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

Federal authorities were at home of Jeffrey Clark, according to U.S. Attorney office spokesman

Federal law enforcement were at the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, who is at the center of the Jan. 6 committee hearing on Thursday.

A U.S. Attorney office spokesman confirmed the activity took place on Wednesday.

The spokesman had no comment regarding the reason for the activity.

524d ago / 4:42 PM UTC

Documentary filmmaker Alex Holder says after emerging from deposition that he's cooperated with committee

British documentary filmmaker Alex Holder came out of a roughly two-hour deposition with Jan. 6 committee investigators Thursday and said he has cooperated with the committee.

Holder said for his film, he conducted one interview with Donald Trump before Jan. 6, 2021 and two interviews after that day. He said he has turned over the raw video footage the committee requested.

The filmmaker's lawyer, Russell Smith, said there were inconsistencies between what Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, told the Jan. 6 committee in testimony and what she said on camera for Holder's film.

The three-part docuseries "Unprecedented" will be released on discovery+ later this summer.

524d ago / 4:35 PM UTC

McCarthy ignores questions about Jan. 6 hearings

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., declined to answer reporters' questions about the Jan. 6 hearings Thursday at a news conference, which was called to highlight legislation to protect giant sequoia trees in California.

Several reporters asked McCarthy about the hearings and former President Donald Trump and he said he didn't want to talk about politics during the event and wanted to focus on the bill being discussed.

This comes as NBC News reported Thursday that Trump is angry with Republicans in Washington who aren't defending him from the findings by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6.

The former president is especially frustrated with McCarthy, who decided last year to pull all five Trump allies from the special panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rejected two of his picks. 

524d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

Threats toward Jan. 6 panel members prompt increased security

Some members of the Jan. 6 Committee are receiving increased security because of threats to their safety, said a source familiar with the panel’s operations. 

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the panel, has had additional security since last year, the source said.

The other Republican on the committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, added a protective detail last week after a threatening, expletive-filled letter was mailed to his wife at their home in Illinois, his spokesperson said.

“Even Tuesday’s hearing brought that home to me even more, which is, you know, if you’re in Congress and you’re doing this, you’ll get some attention and so it’s kind of expected that sometimes you’ll get some crazy stuff that comes your way,” Kinzinger told NBC News in an interview after Tuesday’s hearing, where state and local officials described violent threats they’ve received for standing up to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“To see local elected officials dealing with the kinds of being pushed out of society, folks breaking into their house, protesting outside of their house, threatening them with death,” he added. “That to me was even more chilling.”

Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler declined to comment on her security precautions.

Throughout the year-long investigation, Capitol Police periodically have assigned security details to certain panel members based on specific threats. Police also assigned details for some Democratic prosecutors, known as managers, during both of Trump’s impeachment trials. 

Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who was accompanied by a security detail on Wednesday, declined to go into details about which of the nine panel members are receiving extra security, saying Capitol Police — not the committee — makes the call.

“Well, you know, that’s not for us to determine,” Thompson told reporters in the Capitol. “It’s just like with the impeachment managers, some of them had additional security based on the threat. And so that is generally up to the Capitol Police.”

524d ago / 4:20 PM UTC

'Complete story' of Jan. 6 can be told without Cipollone's public testimony, Kinzinger says


Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told NBC News that the Jan. 6 committee can tell the full story of Trump's effort to overturn the election without the testimony of his former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

"I think we can tell the complete story," Kinzinger told NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake in an interview. "We’ve investigated and we’ve interviewed thousands of people, as we’ve seen in some of the testimony that’s popped up on video, we can tell the story."

During closing remarks at Tuesday's hearing, the committee's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., called on Cipollone to appear publicly and testify before the panel.

"He obviously brings a very unique perspective to what happened both in DOJ and other areas," said Kinzinger, who is slated to lead questioning at Thursday's hearing. "He was the president’s lawyer working on behalf of the government. That is an important kind of viewpoint to get in front of American people."

524d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

How to watch Thursday's Jan. 6 hearing

The fifth public hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is slated to start at 3 p.m. ET and focus on Trump’s efforts to pressure top officials at the Justice Department to advance his stolen election lie.

It will be the committee's final public hearing for the month, and will be streamed live on NBC News NOW, and will also feature a live blog with news and analysis.

NBC News will have special coverage with Lester Holt, and MSNBC will have special coverage featuring Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Nicole Wallace, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ari Melber and Stephanie Ruhle, in addition to a live blog.

524d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

Ivanka Trump told film crew her father should 'continue' to fight after losing election

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Ivanka Trump told a documentary film crew in December 2020 that her father should keep pressing forward with legal action even after he lost the election.

NBC News has confirmed that Trump told the film crew that her father should “continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted” due to public doubts over “the sanctity of our elections.”

The New York Times first reported Trump's comments.

Filmmaker Alex Holder, who is scheduled to be interviewed Thursday by the House committee investigating the insurrection, provided the footage to the Jan. 6 committee. Holder also submitted footage from interviews that featured President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, some of Trump’s adult children, as well as Ivanka Trump's husband Jared Kushner.

524d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

Tense Trump meeting with DOJ leaders to take center stage at Jan. 6 hearing

The Jan. 6 committee plans to take viewers inside the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, when witnesses describe a contentious meeting in which Justice Department leaders threatened to resign if then-President Donald Trump promoted a political appointee who was prepared to back up his false claims of election fraud.

The committee’s fifth public hearing will focus on the former president’s effort to draw upon the department’s legal muscle and authority as he tried to overturn the 2020 election.

In keeping with a message the committee has been hammering home, the hearing is expected to show how America’s democratic tradition survived largely due to the integrity of a few people who stood up to Trump and refused to go along with his plan to retain power.

Three former senior Justice Department officials who rebuffed Trump at the time will be testifying live: Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, who led the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Read the full story here.