The fifth day of hearings in the US Congress on the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump heard how the then-president pressured the Justice Department to help him hold onto power after he lost the 2020 election.
The House of Representatives select committee investigating the attack received testimony from three former top department officials - then-acting attorney-general Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and the then-head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engel.
Here are five key takeaways from Thursday's hearing:
TRUMP TRIED TO FIRE HIS ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL
Trump was frustrated by what he saw as Justice Department inaction investigating or validating his false claims of election fraud.
Between December 23, 2020, and January 3, 2021, Trump called or met Rosen almost every day as his efforts to hold onto power became more urgent. He wanted Rosen to pursue various avenues, including appointing a special counsel to investigate suspected election fraud.
"The common element of all of this was the president expressing his dissatisfaction with the Justice Department having not done enough to investigate election fraud," Rosen said.
When Rosen told Trump in a December 27 meeting the Justice Department could not just snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election, Trump quickly responded, "What I'm just asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," Donoghue recalled.
A Trump-supporting Justice Department environmental lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, was a key player in efforts to use the department to aid efforts to overturn the election loss to Joe Biden.
On January 3, 2021, Clark told Rosen Trump had offered him the position of attorney-general, and he was going to accept. Rosen sought an urgent meeting with Trump at the White House, along with Donoghue and Engel, to talk him out of it.
NEW YEAR'S EVE MEETING
Rosen and Donoghue attended a meeting with the president at the White House on New Year's Eve 2020 where Trump asked why the Justice Department had not seized voting machines Trump supporters alleged had been manipulated to steal the election.
Rosen said his department had no legal authority to take that step, a response that did not sit well with Trump, Donoghue recalled.
Rosen told Trump the Department of Homeland Security had investigated the issue and found nothing wrong with the voting machines.
THE 'MURDER-SUICIDE' LETTER
Clark drafted a letter to be sent to legislatures in some Republican-controlled states, including Georgia, aiming to sow doubts about Biden's election win.
The letter alleged the Justice Department had concerns about election results in multiple states. By the time it was written the department had already determined no widespread fraud had occurred.
Donoghue said Clark was undeterred when he told him the Justice Department could not meddle in the election, responding, "A lot of people have meddled in this election".
The letter was never sent after Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign it.
Cipollone, the White House counsel, said the letter was so toxic that it should never be seen again because if it was ever made public it would be a "murder-suicide".
Trump pressed Justice Department officials to investigate a baseless internet-based conspiracy theory that an Italian defence contractor had uploaded software to a satellite that switched votes from Trump to Biden.
Then-defence secretary Christopher Miller placed a call to the US military attache at the embassy in Italy to seek an investigation, the committee said, citing it as an example of how Trump used the machinery of government to pursue his own ends.
At least five Republican allies of Trump's sought White House pardons after supporting his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, witnesses told the committee.
White House aides said Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry sought pardons that could have inoculated them against prosecution.
Adam Kinzinger, a Republican on the Democrat-led committee who has withstood a torrent of criticism from his party colleagues told the committee, "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you've committed a crime".
Australian Associated Press
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