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January 6 hearing: Trump accused of attempted coup

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Former US President Donald Trump orchestrated last year's Capitol riot in an "attempted coup", a congressional inquiry has heard as a hearing opened into the raid.

Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the committee, said Mr Trump had "lit the flame of this attack".

Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, said the riot endangered American democracy.

Trump supporters stormed Congress on 6 January 2021 as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden's election victory.

After almost a year of investigation, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives select committee opened on Thursday evening by showing clips from interviews it conducted with members of Mr Trump's inner circle.

The timing was geared to reach huge evening TV audiences across the US.

Footage was aired of testimony by former US Attorney General Bill Barr saying he had repeatedly told the former president that he had lost the election and his claims of fraud were wrong.

"We can't live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election," said the former attorney general.

The hearing also featured a recording of testimony by Ivanka Trump, the ex-president's daughter, saying she "accepted" Mr Barr's rejection of her father's conspiracy theory.

And there was an audible gasp in the committee room as Ms Cheney read an account that claimed Mr Trump, when told the rioters were chanting for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged for refusing to block the election results, suggested that he "deserves it".

Before the House inquiry opened on Thursday evening - the first of six hearings expected this month - Mr Trump dismissed it as a "political HOAX".

The former president has been publicly hinting about another White House run in 2024. He continues to peddle unsubstantiated claims that the last election was rigged by mass voter fraud.

The congressional committee is led by Democrats, who formed the panel after Republicans blocked attempts to set up a full independent inquiry. Just two Republicans - the staunchly anti-Trump Reps Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney - are taking part.

The goal of the committee is to provide a comprehensive account of not only the 6 January riot but the "coordinated, multi-step effort" to "overturn" the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Members plan to produce a report and possibly hold another hearing in September to outline their findings and offer suggestions for reforms to the US electoral process.

Mr Thompson, the committee's chairman and a Mississippi lawmaker, told the hearing: "Jan 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one writer put it shortly after Jan 6, to overthrow the government.

"The violence was no accident. It was Trump's last stand."

Ms Cheney, the vice-chair of the committee and a Wyoming congresswoman, said: "Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president.

"President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack."

Running just over two hours, the unprecedented prime-time congressional hearing on the Capitol attack was a decidedly mixed bag.

The video evidence of the 6 January events, and the dramatic personal testimony of officer Caroline Edwards, were powerful reminders of the pain and suffering that day.

The extended statement by Liz Cheney - who has put her career in jeopardy with her criticism of the former president - was full of allegations and accusations but overly dense.

An American sitting down to watch the proceedings instead of their regular Thursday night entertainment may have not received the slickly packaged production that was promised.

But if they had forgotten what it was like on 6 January - the desperation and the drama - there was plenty to remind them.

What they do with that reminder, however, remains to be seen.

Caroline Edwards, the first police officer injured in the attack, testified that she was called a "traitor" and a "dog" by the rioters before she was knocked unconscious.

She described later encountering amid the melee a "ghostly pale" Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day following the attack after suffering two strokes.

"I was slipping in people's blood," Officer Edwards told lawmakers. "It was carnage. It was chaos."

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle," she added.

A British documentary filmmaker, Nick Quested, who was tracking the Proud Boys, a far-right group, on the day of the attack, also gave evidence.

He described his surprise at the anger and violence of the rampaging "insurrectionists".

Four people died on the day of the US Capitol riot: an unarmed woman shot by police and the others of natural causes.

More than 100 police officers were injured. Four other officers later died by suicide.

Republicans have dismissed the televised inquiry as a ploy to distract Americans from the political headwinds Democrats face with five months to go until the US mid-term elections.

Opinion polls suggest Democrats may lose control of the House and even potentially the Senate when the nation votes in November.

As Americans grapple with galloping inflation, soaring petrol prices and a baby-formula crisis, US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has seen his popularity with voters dip below Mr Trump's approval rating at the same point in his tenure.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy - who was initially critical of Mr Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, but has since shifted his tone - called the committee a "smokescreen" for Democrats to overhaul voting laws.

House Democrats impeached Mr Trump following the riot, with barely a week left in his presidency. They accused him of inciting insurrection, but he was acquitted in the Senate.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61753870

 

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Press: How McCarthy blew it on Jan. 6

Aside from Fox News, there’s been almost universal praise in the media for the work of the Jan. 6 select committee. And rightfully so. Its first public hearing, on June 9, was a real tour de force. It was a compelling, made-for-television portrayal of the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — and a powerful indictment of former President Trump, the man at the heart of it all.   

Most importantly, it was done with utmost gravity. No grandstanding. No playing for the camera. Just the indisputable facts, backed up by testimony from leaders of Trump’s own White House: After lying about election fraud for months, the outgoing president summoned his supporters to Washington, in an apparent attempt to stage a coup against the United States government.  

Monday’s second hearing, though less sensational, was equally powerful, with top Republican aides testifying that Trump knew he’d lost the election but lied about it anyway. He spread the lie among state legislatures in attempts to reverse the electoral vote count — and used the lie to raise millions of dollars from loyal but clueless supporters.  

Again, there are plenty of kudos for what a great job the Jan. 6 committee is doing. Unfortunately, there’s too little attention paid thus far to what a pathetic job House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Republicans have done responding to the events of Jan. 6. From Day 1, it’s been a series of embarrassing mistakes.  

At first, in a rare moment of truth-telling, McCarthy said Trump was responsible for what happened on Jan. 6, “no ifs, ands or buts.” In a leaked audio recording, he said, “Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.” That didn’t last long. After rushing to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s ring, McCarthy 180’d back to defending Trump, and has been doing so ever since.  

McCarthy’s next big mistake was refusing to agree to a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6. Such a commission would have had an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with equal authority to subpoena and interrogate witnesses. It would have joined the prestigious ranks of the Warren, Kerner, and 9/11 commissions. But McCarthy, ever fearful of offending Trump, dismissed the Jan. 6 insurrection as not worth an investigation — thereby handing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the opportunity to create the House select committee.  

Next, McCarthy tried to sabotage the committee by appointing Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), both of whom were actively involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Again, McCarthy was outplayed by Pelosi, who rejected Banks and Jordan and offered committee seats to Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.).  

Then McCarthy and House Republicans proceeded to undermine the Jan. 6 committee in a series of arguments that border on the absurd: that what happened on Jan. 6 was “no big deal”; that it was nothing more than a typical tourist visit; that it was another Democratic “witch hunt” against Trump; that it was all Pelosi’s fault; or, most despicable of all, that the blame lies with Capitol police officers, five of whom died following Jan. 6. Some even called the rioters who trashed the Capitol “patriots.”  

And that’s McCarthy’s shockingly inept response to the worst attack on our Capitol since the British burned the Capitol in 1814 and the most serious threat to our democracy since the Civil War. If I were a Republican, I’d sue McCarthy for malpractice.  

In the end, Cheney summed it up best. In a blistering statement that should be etched over the door to McCarthy’s office, she warned: “There will come a time when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/newspolitics/press-how-mccarthy-blew-it-on-jan-6/ar-AAYrvBz?li=AAggNb9

 

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Capitol riot hearing: Vote workers detail death threats

Trump supporters threatened election officials and their families after they refused to quash his 2020 defeat, a congressional panel has heard.

The speaker of Arizona's statehouse, Rusty Bowers, told the committee probing last year's Capitol riot that the harassment continues to this day.

A Georgia voter counter said she was afraid to leave home after ex-President Donald Trump specifically targeted her.

The House of Representatives panel accuses Mr Trump of an attempted coup.

The select committee has conducted a nearly yearlong investigation into how Trump supporters invaded Congress on 6 January 2021 to disrupt lawmakers as they certified Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.

On Tuesday, in the fourth public hearing so far, the panel heard from election workers in the states of Arizona and Georgia. Mr Biden defeated Mr Trump in both states, which had previously backed Republicans for the White House.

"We received... in excess of 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voice mails and texts, which saturated our offices and we were unable to work, at least communicate," Mr Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, told the select committee.

The witness - who campaigned for Mr Trump in 2020 - said the threats and insults have continued with protesters outside his house attempting to smear him as a paedophile.

"It was disturbing, it was disturbing," Mr Bowers said.

He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at one point telling him: "We've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence."

The panel also heard testimony from Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who became the targets of conspiracy theories in their jobs as election workers in Fulton County, Georgia.

Although Mr Biden won the state by nearly 12,000 votes, Mr Trump and his supporters spread unfounded claims of mass voter fraud.

In recorded messages, Mr Trump had called Ms Moss "a professional vote-scammer and hustler", alleging the mother-daughter duo cheated to help Democrats.

"I've lost my name, I've lost my reputation, I've lost my sense of security," Ms Freeman said through tears, in video presented by the committee on Tuesday.

"Do you know what it feels like to have the president of the United States target you?"

Ms Moss said she faced "a lot of threats wishing death upon me", and that the harassment - including racial abuse - had "turned my life upside down".

"I no longer give out my business card. I don't want anyone knowing my name."

Ms Moss said she is reluctant to go anywhere, including the supermarket, and has gained about 60lb (27kg) in weight.

She told the committee that Trump supporters had visited her grandmother's home, looking for her and hoping to make a "citizen's arrest".

Lawmakers also heard from Republican poll organisers in Georgia about their difficulty in stamping out conspiracies fanned by Mr Trump.

Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, told the committee that fighting the election scam claims "was like a shovel trying to empty the ocean".

His boss - Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Mr Trump repeatedly pressed to "find" the votes he needed to win the state - ticked through a laundry list of allegations made by the Trump team in legal action against the state.

"In their lawsuits, they alleged 10,315 dead people [voted]," Mr Raffensperger said, but a thorough review found a total of only four.

The secretary said further investigation had debunked other claims about illegal votes by underage and non-registered voters, as well as convicts.

"We had many allegations and we investigated every single one of them."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61889593

 

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Trump team didn't have the evidence and 4 other takeaways from the Jan. 6 hearing

Former President Donald Trump's team not only pressured GOP state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost, but they knew there was no authority to do so, a key Republican witness said in testimony Tuesday.

"We've got lots of theories, but we just don't have the evidence," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, according to Bowers, who testified to that Tuesday under oath before the Jan. 6 committee.

That was one of the eye-opening findings of the Jan. 6 committee's fourth hearing that showed the depth and breadth of Trump and his allies' pressure on local and state officials. But there was more.

Here are five takeaways from the hearing:

1. Trump's team knew it had no evidence or authority for its schemes

Bowers, a Republican who voted for Trump, said Giuliana wanted him to decertify the election by replacing the slate of popularly elected Biden electors with fake Trump ones.

Bowers, whose testimony was arguably the most compelling of any Jan. 6 witness so far, said he didn't know if Giuliani's comment that he had no "evidence" was a "gaffe," but that the multiple witnesses to the comment "afterwards, kind of laughed about it."

Bowers also testified that lawyer John Eastman, who was advising Trump and was at the center of the schemes to help him hold onto power, urged Bowers to decertify the electors – even if they didn't think or know if it defied the Constitution.

"Just do it, and let the courts sort it out," Bowers said Eastman told him.

2. Pressure was widespread, institutional and helped destroy personal lives

Bowers testified that Trump asked him to entertain the idea of replacing Biden's slate of electors and replace them with people who were pro-Trump. He said he didn't "want to be used as a pawn," and told the president, "You are asking me to do something to break my oath and I will not break my oath."

Bowers refused to bow to the pressure, citing his faith and oath to the Constitution, but he paid a price for that. He described a "new pattern in our lives" when groups would come to his home on Saturdays and sometimes issue threats.

He said his "gravely ill daughter" was upset by what was happening outside.

"So it was disturbing, just disturbing," he said.

The pressure was widespread, from a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and the institutional help of the Republican National Committee to Trump meeting with state lawmakers in person, making threatening phone calls, as well as delivering public speeches and tweets that spurred threats, protests at houses and doxxing of personal information.

Trump targeted Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, an election worker in Georgia, and her mother, Ruby Freeman. Moss testified that when that happened, she was inundated with threats, including one on Facebook Messenger in which someone wrote "Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920." Moss is Black.

Moss tearfully testified that her life has been turned "upside down." She said she won't tell people her name anymore, hand out her business card, even go to the grocery store. She said she's gained 60 pounds and doesn't "want to do anything" or "go anywhere."

"It's affected my life in a major way," she said, adding, "all because of lies."

All this, in a desperate attempt by Trump and his allies to help Trump hold onto power.

3. Members of Congress were in on the pressure campaign

One area that will see more follow up is spelling out just how involved certain members of Congress were. Tuesday's hearing revealed, for example, that Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs and Sen. Ron Johnson played roles.

Bowers testified that Biggs urged him to sign on to the decertification of electors. The committee also showed text messages between an aide to Johnson, Sean Riley, and Vice President Mike Pence's head of legislative affairs, Chris Hodgson. The text exchange revealed that Johnson wanted to hand new slates of electors for Michigan and Wisconsin to Pence on Jan. 6, but Johnson's staffer was rebuffed. Here's the exchange:

RILEY: "Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise."

HODGSON: "What is it?"

RILEY: "Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn't receive them."

HODGSON: "Do not give that to him."

For its part, Johnson's office is now trying to distance the senator from the scheme. A spokesperson says the senator "had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office."

These aren't the first members of Congress to be shown as somehow involved in the pressure campaign. It was also previously reported that Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan sent a text to Mark Meadows forwarding a theory that could be used to pressure Pence to throw out votes on Jan. 6.

There are also questions about a tour Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., gave the day before the riot – with people who wound up storming the Capitol and who were taking photos of hallways and stairwells.

And committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney has said the panel learned that Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry and "Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election." Perry denied the allegation.

4. Democracy is fragile, relies on people and their willingness to do what's right

The American elections system has long been revered around the world. As compared to other countries, the United States has had (largely) clean elections free of corruption. America's long history of peaceful transfers of power – until 2021 – has become a model.

That was attacked Jan. 6. The institutions survived, but only because of people.

"We say our institutions held," Thompson said. "But what does that really mean? Democratic institutions aren't abstractions or ideas. They're local officials who oversee elections. Secretaries of state, people in whom we've placed our trust that they'll carry out their duties. But what if they don't?"

That was made clear Tuesday. What if Bowers, for example, had gone along with Trump's ruse? What if, facing threats, lawmakers and elections officials in Georgia or Michigan or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin went along?

The lynchpin that holds the democratic system together is people willing to do what's right. How long can and will that last, if those people who want to do what's right are not supported by party leaders and elected officials in both parties and especially when their side loses?

5. Polarization on the right has become poisonous

Imagine a world in which Joe Biden lost reelection and in the transition period did even a tenth of what witnesses are saying Trump did – the phone calls, the arm-twisting, the denial of reality, the pressuring of state elections officials and spurring threats of violence.

Imagine that then dozens of Democrats who worked in his White House and on his campaign trying to get him reelected and state officials who wanted Biden to win all then testified to that pressure campaign.

Do you think Republicans would be sitting on their hands, complaining about the lack of cross examination?

Cheney implored people watching at home to "focus on the evidence. Don't be distracted by politics. This is serious. We can't allow America to become a nation of conspiracies and thug violence."

But there's little evidence any of this will change most conservatives' minds. Trump supporters have long been selling themselves a narrative of Trump that they have internalized. That has become nearly impossible to pierce, especially with facts.

Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling got to this point well. He noted that he argued with family members who were believing what Trump was telling them about a stolen election that wasn't.

"The problem you have is you're getting into people's hearts," Sterling said.

He relayed a story about a lawyer he knew sympathetic to Trump. Sterling took him through allegations they investigated and showed him, one by one, that they didn't stand up to scrutiny.

"I just know in my heart that they cheated," Sterling said was the lawyer's response. "And so, once you get past the heart, the facts don't matter as much."

When facts don't matter, that's a scary place to be.

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/21/1106344831/recap-jan-6-committee-hearing

 

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Right from the start of him standing for office I knew Trump was a wrong un. I had him pegged as a parasite and I've not been proved wrong.

Thanks dvernb for keeping up with this... next hearing is Thursday 23/6/22

I wonder why it's only you and I are interested in this political eruption?

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Key takeaways of Jan. 6 panel Day 5: Trump wanted DOJ to promote his interests

After four years in power, Donald Trump never grasped that government isn’t supposed to be a tool for promoting personal interests, the Jan. 6 committee argued as it presented evidence Thursday about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.  

Witnesses described Trump’s desperate efforts to rope the Justice Department into a plot to overturn the election — trying at every turn to persuade government attorneys to act as an extension of his campaign. 

Senior officials whom Trump had appointed testified that they tried to explain the department’s unique role to him: They worked for the American people and represented the federal government. The message never stuck. 

Frustrated that the department’s leadership wouldn’t falsely claim the election was “corrupt,” Trump nearly replaced the acting attorney general with a loyalist, backing down when he was told the move would trigger a cascade of resignations. 

He sought to use the department’s prestige and power to plant doubts about the election’s validity, the committee showed. Lost on Trump was the department’s singular purpose: enforcing the law — not doing his bidding.

“He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies, to baselessly call the election corrupt, to appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud, to send a letter to six state legislatures urging them to consider altering the election results,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

 A few takeaways from the hearing:

Government officials repeatedly debunked conspiracy theories for Trump 

The Justice Department looked into various allegations of voter fraud and found nothing that would have overturned the results. 

Trump never let up. 

He browbeat department leaders, growing more insistent that they weren’t looking hard enough for fraud as Jan. 6, 2021 neared and Congress would certify Joe Biden’s victory. 

Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, testified that from Dec. 23, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021, he heard from Trump virtually every day, with the president taking a break on Christmas. Trump would fixate on meritless allegations. 

Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, described multiple meetings in which Trump pointed to a report alleging voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan. The report contended that the error rate in the county was 68 percent. Trump wanted the Justice Department to use the report to show that the results “weren’t trustworthy,” Donoghue said. 

Donoghue said that the report was wrong and that the actual error rate turned out to be less than 0.01 percent. He said he told Trump it was an example “of what people are telling you is not true and you cannot and should not be relying on.” 

On another occasion, Trump told him about allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, where there had been about 200,000 more votes than there were voters.

Donoghue said he asked a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, to investigate. Brady concluded that there was no wrongdoing — merely a state election website that hadn’t been updated.

“In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, the Department of Justice was fielding almost daily requests from the president to investigate claims of election fraud,” said committee member Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “Each claim was refuted time and time again, an effort [former] Attorney General Barr described as ‘whack-a-mole.’” 

Trump never found his Roy Cohn

Early in his term, Trump would complain that he didn’t have an attorney general in the mold of Roy Cohn, his onetime personal lawyer, who worked for red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s. Trump soured on his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for appointing a special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Barr quit. And Trump nearly fired Rosen for failing to produce evidence of voter fraud.

Rosen told the committee that “the common element” of his meetings with Trump “was the president expressing his dissatisfaction that the Department of Justice had not done enough, in his view, to investigate election fraud.”

One person ready to accommodate Trump never got the job. Jeffrey Clark was a Justice Department environmental official whom the president considered elevating to acting attorney general in the final weeks of his term, in place of Rosen. The committee showed how Clark was ready to send letters inviting officials in Georgia and other swing states to throw out Biden’s victory because of “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.”

In a job audition of sorts, Trump met with Clark and other senior Justice Department leaders on Jan. 3, 2021.  Sitting before Trump, Clark made an argument for why he should get promoted. He told the president that he would “conduct real investigations that would, in his view, uncover widespread fraud” and that he had the “intelligence and the will and the desire to pursue these matters in the way that the president thought most appropriate,” Donoghue said. 

Trump was tempted. Pointing at Donoghue and Rosen, he said: “‘You two haven’t done anything,’” Donoghue recalled.

In the end, Trump backed down and kept Rosen in place. Elevating Clark would have triggered mass resignations, crippling the department. 

Even as DOJ stayed publicly mum, a battle was brewing

As the battle brewed behind the scenes at the Justice Department, the officials who testified Thursday were silent publicly. After Barr resigned in December 2020, the new leadership kept quiet as Trump and his campaign spread falsehoods about the election and worked behind the scenes to bend the Justice Department to his will.

Justice Department leaders typically try to stay out of politics, and the officials may have thought their best bet was to say nothing publicly and try to ensure a smooth transition. 

But the silence of the FBI and the Justice Department at the time allowed Trump’s claims to gain steam in the conservative media.

That the Justice Department officials stayed silent for so long made Thursday’s hearing more revealing. Speaking out publicly gave their testimony added drama.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/key-takeaways-january-6-panel-day-5-department-justice-trump-rcna34972

 

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'Just say it was corrupt' and 3 other takeaways from Thursday's Jan. 6 hearing

A president desperate to retain power and enmeshed in fringe internet conspiracies engaged in a multi-layer conspiracy, pressuring top Justice Department officials and grasping for straws of legitimacy for his election lies – facts be damned.

"Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," former President Trump said, according to testimony Thursday from Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, in the fifth Jan. 6 committee hearing.

Donoghue, who took contemporaneous notes on that conversation, and several others with the former president, emphasized that it was an "exact" quote. Trump made the remarks in the transition period between the 2020 presidential election he lost and the Jan. 6 insurrection.

It was just one of many dramatic moments from the hearing that painted — in vivid color — scenes that seemed straight from a Hollywood political thriller.

But this was no movie.

It was the last days of the Trump presidency – and these hearings have shown just how thin a string was holding together American democracy.

Here are four takeaways from the hearing:

1. The details of the pressure on the Justice Department showed Trump crossing all over the lines of the department's independence.

Justice Department officials serve at the pleasure of the president, but presidential interference in the department's investigations and inner workings have long been frowned upon in the American tradition.

None of that seemed to matter to Trump, according to multiple witnesses Thursday.

Trump called and met nearly every day after Election Day with top Justice Department officials, peppering them with false allegations to investigate. But when he was told there was no evidence for conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, it wasn't enough for him, witnesses said.

"We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election," Donoghue recalled Trump telling him, his notes shown on the screen behind committee members.

The clock was ticking on Trump, and the committee showed Trump to be a man who would do nearly whatever it took to stay in power — and saw the Justice Department as a key vehicle.

He publicly disagreed with his attorney general, Bill Barr, who quit under the pressure. Trump wanted Barr to appoint a special counsel. Conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell testified on camera that Trump asked her to be that special counsel.

Trump leaned on the new acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, calling or meeting with him nearly every day with the exceptions of Christmas and New Year's Eve, Rosen testified. And Trump threatened to replace Rosen with someone who would act on his election lies.

2. If senior DOJ officials wouldn't go along, Trump would find someone who would.

Trump threatened to install Jeffrey Clark, a lower-level DOJ environmental lawyer, in the top job. Rep. Scott Perry introduced Clark to Trump, and Clark was ready to do Trump's bidding.

Clark was going behind his superiors' backs to meet with the president, violating department protocols, the officials said. Clark had drafted a letter pressuring state officials to take steps to overturn the election, citing evidence he didn't have for problems with the voting.

"This other guy just might do something," Trump told Rosen, Rosen recalled, noting Trump's frustration with Rosen for not pursuing his election lies as legitimate.

Donoghue, for the record, said he and others in the department investigated each of Trump's far-flung conspiracies. All were without merit, he said. He and Rosen testified to that and that they told Trump so – repeatedly correcting him "in a serial fashion," as Trump went from one allegation to another.

Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows even bandied about a far-flung conspiracy theory that Italian satellites had been rigged to switch votes from Trump to Biden. This went so far that, despite Donoghue calling the theory "pure insanity" and "patently absurd," acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, at Meadows' request, called the Defense attache in Rome, who also knocked down the conspiracy.

Trump, though, thought there was something there. Why? "You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do," Trump said, per Donoghue's notes.

Frustrated, Trump very nearly appointed Clark attorney general. He only balked when Donoghue emphatically noted in a high-pressure Oval Office meeting that he and many others would resign if Trump took that drastic step.

"What do I have to lose?" Trump said at one point, per Donoghue. Donoghue tried to convince him he, personally – and the country – had quite a bit to lose.

Donoghue told Trump that Clark's promises were hollow, that he could not deliver what Trump wanted and do so in a matter of days, especially because the allegations had already been investigated – and proven false.

"It's absurd," Donoghue said he told Trump. "It's not going to happen, and he's going to fail."

3. Several members of Congress sought pardons

Another striking element of Thursday's hearing was the revelation that several right-wing Republican members of Congress, who were in one way or another involved in Jan. 6, sought pardons.

Multiple witnesses, including lawyers and White House staff, testified that at least five, perhaps six, Republicans asked for pardons – Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Mo Brooks, R-Ala., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Scott Perry, R-Pa.

There was some question as to whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. asked for one, as well, as a White House staffer testified that she heard Greene did, but didn't know firsthand. Greene denies that she asked for one.

All have denied wrongdoing.

"The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is if you committed a crime," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who led the questioning Thursday, said.

Of course, it's also possible that these members, so deeply enmeshed in conspiracy, in their minds, felt a newly minted Justice Department under a Democratic president, would go after them.

"It's not a crime to request a pardon in the United States of America," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the committee, on CNN after the hearing of his colleagues who asked for pardons. "No one can be prosecuted for that, but I think if we use our common sense, if we use our Tom Paynian common sense, then it would indicate some consciousness of guilt or some fear that you could be prosecuted for what you did."

4. No one was too big or too small for Trump's pressure campaign in his desperate attempt to stay in power.

These five days of hearings have revealed just how far Trump would go to hold onto power.

His pressure was unrelenting and multifaceted. And no one was immune, from people as high up in the government as his vice president and top Justice Department officials to others doing the work of implementing elections, like Wandrea "Shaye" Moss.

Moss testified on Tuesday that her life had been turned upside down, that her personal life had literally been destroyed because of Trump's no-holds-barred bid to cling to the White House.

He pressed diligent local election officials, who don't normally get any attention – let alone death threats – to go along with schemes he and those around him concocted to upend the American election system.

It has to pain Trump that it didn't work, that for all of his effort, he couldn't pull it off. With all this cast into a bright light, it will be notable to see how Americans move after this. Does Trump continue to wield the kind of influence in the Republican Party, or will he seem more vulnerable if he decides to run again in 2024?

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/23/1106701188/just-say-it-was-corrupt-and-3-other-takeaways-from-thursdays-jan-6-hearing

 

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