Donald Trump was thwarted in his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election by the resistance of just a few of his top officials at the Department of Justice, a Congressional hearing has heard.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol heard from some of Trump’s most senior legal officers on Thursday as they outlined how the former president tried to bend the justice department to his will.
Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, told his fellow members that Trump might have succeeded if a handful of those at the top of the department had not threatened to resign.
Kinzinger said: “When the president tried to misuse the department and install a loyalist at its helm, these brave officials refused and threatened to resign. They were willing to sacrifice their careers [for] our country.”
At aearlier in the week, members of the committee focused on how Trump and his allies applied pressure on officials in swing states that Joe Biden won not to certify their election results.
Thursday’s hearing concentrated instead on a similar pressure campaign on the justice department, which Trump wanted to launch an investigation into his false claims of widespread voter fraud.
Amid this campaign, Bill Barr quit as the US attorney-general, to be replaced by his deputy Jeffrey Rosen, while Richard Donoghue became the deputy in the department.
Barr has been one of the star witnesses of the hearings so far, testifying on video that he thought Trump’s claims of voter fraud were “bullshit”.
Donoghue and Rosen testified live on Thursday, and explained how they tried to persuade Trump on numerous occasions that his claims were wrong.
Rosen told the committee about a 90-minute call he had with Trump. “As the president went through [his claims], I went piece by piece to say no, that’s false, that is not true.”
Donoghue testified that when he told Trump the DoJ could not overturn an election, the former president replied: “That’s not what I’m asking you to do.
“All I’m just asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congress.”
The committee is set to focus on Trump’s attempts to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a former DoJ official who backed the former president’s claims. Clark circulated a letter in the department at the time which he wanted to send to swing states Biden had won saying that the department had “significant concerns” about the vote.
Department leaders refused to send the letter, the committee heard, and then resisted Trump’s attempts to replace Rosen with Clark by threatening to quit en masse.
Separately, federal agents searched Clark’s home on Wednesday morning, according to people familiar with the action. A spokesperson at the US attorney’s office in Washington would not comment, but confirmed that there had been “law enforcement activity in the Lorton, Virginia area yesterday”.
Russ Vought, the head of the Center for Renewing America, where Clark works, said in a statement: “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 pyjamas, and took his electronic devices. All because Jeff saw fit to investigate voter fraud.”