Thursday’s hearing of the Jan. 6 committee focused on the pressure then-President Donald Trump and his allies put on the Justice Department to help overturn the 2020 election.
Summing up the hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Trump continuing to push the lie of a stolen election and pressure his officials to break the law was “about protecting his very real power and very real fragile ego — even if it required recklessly undermining our entire electoral system by wildly casting faceless doubt upon it.”
“In short, he was willing to sacrifice our republic to prolong this presidency. I can imagine no more dishonorable act by a president,” he said.
Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., closed by previewing the focus of hearings to come in July, calling the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol Trump’s “backup plan of stopping the transfer of power” if he couldn’t get away with a “political coup.”
“We are going to show how Donald Trump tapped into the threat of violence, how he summoned a mob to Washington and how — after corruption and political pressure failed to keep Donald Trump in office — violence became the last option,” he said.
In a taped deposition, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office John McEntee said he witnessed Trump having conversations about the possibility of a “blanket pardon” for all those involved in Jan. 6.
When asked by the committee if Trump thought about pardons for his family members, McEntee said Trump had hinted at a blanket pardon “for all the staff and everyone involved” before he left office.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger responded to that by saying, “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime.”
In a series of stunning taped testimony, former White House officials said several Republican members of Congress — including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Scott Perry, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Paul Gosar, and Rep. Mo Brooks — asked the White House for pardons in some form in the final days of the Trump administration following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“Every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania,” read an email from Brooks, requesting pardons for himself, Gaetz and others involved in election objections.
Former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, also said Rep. Jim Jordan talked with the White House about pardon updates for members of Congress but did not specifically ask.
“The general tone was, we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of, you know, the president’s positions on these things,” recalled former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann.
“I know he had hinted at a blanket pardon for the January 6 thing for anybody, but I think he had all the staff and everyone involved, not January 6, but just before he left office,” said former Trump White House aide John McEntee in a taped deposition. “I know he had talked about that.”
“The only reason I know that you ask for a pardon is that you think you committed a crime,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
Former deputy acting attorney general Richard Donoghue illustrated how serious discussions were of mass resignations at the Justice Department as Trump threatened to replace his attorney general with a lower-level official who supported his plan to overturn the election, describing his fears of the potential impact that it could have in the final days of Trump administration.
Donoghue said he pleaded separately with the head of DOJ’s national security division, John Demers, to not be among those who would resign.
“I prefaced the call by saying, ‘John, we need you to stay in place. National security is too important and we need to minimize the disruption,’” Donoghue said in the hearing.
Donoghue said while Demers showed a willingness to resign, he agreed with Donoghue’s assessment, as they imagined what would happen to the nation’s top law enforcement agency should all the top officials resign.
“As Steve Engel noted, the goal was to make clear to Trump he would leave Clark leading a “graveyard,” a comment that “clearly had an impact on the president,” Donoghue said.
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