Former Trump DOJ officials to testify at 5th hearing of Jan. 6 committee

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is planning to outline how then-President Donald Trump sought to use the Justice Department to promote his false claims of voter fraud in its next public hearing on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday’s hearing, the fifth in an ongoing series, will feature in-person testimony from former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, who served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Trump administration.

The former Trump Justice Department officials had previously been slated to appear before the committee last week at a hearing that was ultimately postponed. They are expected to testify about how, during his final weeks in the White House, Trump pressured the Justice Department to help him overturn the 2020 election.

“We’ll look specifically at how the former president was trying to misuse the department to advance his own agenda to stay in power at the end of his term,” a select committee aide said Wednesday.

Members of the House Select Committee hearing take their seats.
Members of the House Select Committee hearing to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol get ready to begin the session in the Cannon House Building on Capitol Hill on June 21, 2022. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking on background to reporters Wednesday, committee aides previewed how Thursday’s hearing would examine different aspects of Trump’s pressure campaign against the DOJ, including efforts to get the department to publicly state that there was widespread election fraud, despite evidence to the contrary, and to file lawsuits on behalf of or with the Trump campaign to challenge the election results in certain states.

The aides said the committee plans to show senior DOJ officials resisted Trump’s attempts to appoint a special counsel to pursue fraud claims, as well as his threats to replace senior leadership with loyalists who were willing to use the department to sow doubt about the election.

“We’ll see that President Trump only failed here because the senior DOJ leadership team stood up and threatened to resign rather than help the president subvert the electoral process,” a select committee aide said.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at the White House.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen arrives at the White House on Sept. 26, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The alleged Justice Department scheme is part of what committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney has described as Trump’s “sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”

Earlier hearings have focused on other aspects of that plan, such as efforts by Trump and allies to convince state officials to reverse the election results in key battlegrounds won by Joe Biden, and to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to reject legitimate electoral votes cast in those states when Congress met to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Rosen became acting attorney general in December 2020, after former Attorney General Bill Barr stepped down.

At earlier hearings, the committee has shown clips of Barr’s taped deposition, in which he likened the Justice Department’s effort to investigate the “avalanche of fraud allegations” circulated by Trump and his allies after the election to “playing whack-a-mole” and noted that Trump continued to publicly promote bogus claims even after his attorney general told him they were “bulls***.”

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue at the pordium.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue addresses a press conference in New York on Nov. 7, 2019, in New York City. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Barr told the committee that his departure from the Justice Department was driven in part by the sense of demoralization he felt after multiple conversations with the former president in which he explained exactly why specific allegations, such as those about "suitcases of ballots" in Georgia or "rigged Dominion voting machines" in Michigan, weren’t true, only for Trump to move on to the next bogus claim.

“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” Barr said.

A video image of Attorney General Bill Barr is seen on a screen, with the House select committee seated below it.
A video image of then Attorney General Bill Barr at the House select committee hearing on June 9 investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters).

Select Committee aides said that Thursday’s hearing will feature additional testimony from Barr, as well as details from Thursday’s in-person witnesses about Trump’s threats to fire Rosen and replace him with Jeffrey Clark, then a little-known Justice Department official.

A Senate Judiciary Committee investigation revealed last year how Clark and Trump conspired to pressure the Justice Department to subvert the election results. Clark has resisted cooperating with the committee, reportedly pleading the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times during a deposition after the panel voted to refer him for criminal contempt charges in December.

Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel nominee Steven Engel testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (Cliff Owen/AP)
Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, nominee Steven Engel testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination, on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2017. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Although the select committee’s investigation is ongoing, the panel has used the recent public hearings to reveal what it has learned over the last 11 months. In an initial primetime hearing on June 9, committee members offered a preview of how they planned to use both live and pretaped witness testimony to connect the dots between Trump’s efforts to subvert the outcome of the election and the violence that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Throughout the hearings, Trump has repeatedly criticized the committee’s presentation of evidence on his social media network, Truth Social, repeating many of the same false election fraud claims that the panel says inspired the violent insurrection, and demanding that the broadcast news networks airing the hearings give him “equal time” to make his case that the election was rigged.

The rioters got within two doors of Vice President Mike Pence's office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.

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