Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, testified on June 23 as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack presented its findings to the public.
Donoghue described to the committee how he and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen tried to dissuade fellow DOJ official Jeffrey Clark from acting on claims of election fraud that were not supported by evidence. Clark had readied a letter meant for state legislatures in swing states that casted doubt on the 2020 election that had been won by President Joe Biden.
“For the department to insert into the political processes this way, I think, would have grave consequences for the country. It may very well spiral us into a constitutional crisis and I wanted to make sure he understood the gravity of the situation because he did not seem to appreciate it,” Donoghue recalled writing in a response to Clark.
Donoghue said Rosen was also “exasperated” by Clark’s efforts and the three had a “contentious” meeting.
Despite the warning, Donoghue said Clark continued to investigate claims of election fraud, including an intelligence briefing that suggested foreign interference in the election, and argued for sending the letter.
“We thought perhaps once it was explained to him that there was no basis for that part of his concern, that he would retreat. But instead, he doubled down and said, ‘OK, there is no foreign interference. I still think there are enough allegations out there that we should go ahead and send this letter,’ which shocked me even more than the initial one,” Donoghue said, “because you would think after a couple of days of looking at this – he, like we – would have come to the same conclusion, that it was unfounded.”
The hearing, the fifth of several planned by the Jan. 6 committee, focused on Trump’s pressure on the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. In the year since its creation, the committee has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, seeking critical information and documents from people witness to, or involved in, the violence that day.
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