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CNN Live Event/Special
Attack on Democracy: The January 6th Hearings. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 23, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: That was actually certified by the secretary of state and the 5 million that was on a public facing website was that the information on the website was incomplete because four counties had not uploaded their data.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): So no credibility to that?
DONOGHUE: There was zero to that, right.
KINZINGER: During that call, did Scott Perry mention Mr. Clark? And what did he say about him if so?
DONOGHUE: He did. He mentioned Mr. Clark. He said something to the effect of, I think Jeff Clark is great and I think he's the kind of guy that can get in there and do something about this stuff. This was coming on the heels of the president having mentioned Mr. Clark in the afternoon call earlier that day.
KINZINGER: I'd like to yield to the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Vice Chair Cheney.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Mr. Kinzinger. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
As we discussed earlier, at the center of Mr. Clark's plan to undo President Trump's election loss was a letter. Mr. Donoghue, on December 28th, Mr. Clark emailed you and Mr. Rosen a draft letter that he wanted you to sign and send to Georgia state officials. You testified that this could have, quote, grave constitutional consequences.
Mr. Donoghue, can you tell us what you meant by that?
DONOGHUE: Well, I had to read both the email and attached letter twice to make sure I understood what he was proposing, because it was so extreme to me. I had a hard time getting my head around it initially. But I read it and I did understand it for what he intended, and I had to sit down and sort of compose what I thought was an appropriate response. I actually initially went next door to the acting A.G.'s office, but he was not there. We were both on the email. I knew we would both have a similar reaction to it.
He was not in his office, so I returned to my office, and I sat down to draft a response, because I thought it was very important to give a prompt response reject thing out of hand. There were, in my response, I explained a number of reasons this is not the department's role to suggest or dictate the state legislatures how they should select their electors. But more importantly, this was not based on fact. This was contrary to the facts, as developed by the department of investigations over the last several weeks and months.
So I responded to that, and for the department to insert itself into the political process this way, I think would have had grave consequences for the country. It may very well have spiraled us into a constitutional crisis, and I wanted to make sure he understood the gravity of the situation because he didn't seem to really appreciate it.
CHENEY: And what was Mr. Clark's reaction when you sent this email to him?
DONOGHUE: He didn't respond directly to the email, but we met shortly after that. After I sent the email, the acting A.G. returned, I went to his office. He had just read it. He had very similar reaction to me. He was exasperated and he told me that he had told one of his administrative assistants to get Jeff Clark up here. We want to talk to him face to face about this.
So, the three of us had a meeting, probably around 1800 that night in the deputy attorney general's conference room.
CHENEY: And one of the things you said to Mr. Clark is, quote, what you are doing is nothing less than the United States Justice Department meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.
And I assume you convey to him as well in your meeting that evening?
DONOGHUE: Yes, in those very words. It was a very contentious meeting. But yes, that was said, amongst other things.
CHENEY: And despite this contentious meeting and your strong reaction to the letter, did Mr. Clark continue to push his concept in the coming days?
DONOGHUE: He did, yes. We had subsequent meetings and conversations. The acting A.G. probably had more contact with him than I did. But between the 28th and the 2nd, when we had another in-person meeting, he clearly continued to move down this path. He began calling witnesses and apparently conducting investigations of his own.
And he got a briefing from DNI about reported foreign intelligence interference. And 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, well, okay, there's no foreign interference. I still think there are enough allegations that we should go ahead and sent this letter. Which shocked me more than the initial one, because you would think after a couple of days of looking at this, he, like we, would have came to the same conclusion that it was completely unfounded.
CHENEY: When you learned he had been calling witnesses and conducting investigations on his own, did you confront him?
CHENEY: And what was his reaction?
DONOGHUE: He got very defensive. You know, as I said, there was a series of conversations through that week.
I certainly remember specifically the conversation in the meeting on January 2nd. That got even more confrontational. But he was defensive, and, you know, similar to his earlier reaction when I said this is nothing less than Justice Department meddling in an election, his reaction was, I think a lot of people have meddled in this election. So he kind of clung to that, and then spewed out some of these theories, some of which we heard from the president, others were floating around the Internet and media, and just kept insisting that the department needed to act, and needed to send those letters.
CHENEY: The committee has also learned that Mr. Clark was working with another attorney at the department named Ken Klukowski who drafted this letter to Georgia with Mr. Clark. Mr. Klukowski had arrived at the department on December 15th, with just 36 days left until the inauguration. He was specifically assigned to work under Jeff Clark.
And Mr. Klukowski also worked with John Eastman, who we showed you in our hearing last week was one of the primary architects of President Trump's scheme to overturn the election.
The Georgia letter we had been discussing talks about some of Dr. Eastman's theories, including, quote: The purpose of the special session the department recommends would be for the general assembly to determine whether the election failed to make a proper and valid choice between the candidates, such that the general assembly could take whatever action is necessary to ensure that one of the slates of electors cast on December 14th will be accepted by Congress on January 6th. The committee learned that the relationship between Dr. Eastman and Mr. Klukowski persisted after Mr. Klukowski joined the Justice Department.
Let's take a look at an email an email recommending that Mr. Klukowski and Dr. Eastman brief Vice President Pence and his staff. Other recipients of this email included the chief of staff to Congressman Louis Gohmert.
And the email says: As stated last week I believe the vice president and his staff would benefit greatly from a briefing by John and Ken. As I also mentioned, we want to make sure we don't overexpose Ken given his new position.
This email suggests that Mr. Klukowski was simultaneously working with Jeffrey Clark to draft a proposed letter to Georgia officials to overturn their certified election and working with Dr. Eastman to help pressure the vice president overturn the election.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today and for answering our questions about this letter and other issues. We asked Mr. Clark some of the same questions that we've asked you, and here's how he answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you discuss this draft letter to Georgia officials with the president of the United States?
JEFFREY CLARK, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's an executive privilege, again, just restated for the abundance of caution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. If you look again at the draft letter, in the first paragraph, second sentence says the department will update you as we are able on investigatory progress, but at this time, we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states including the state of Georgia.
Isn't that, in fact, contrary to what Attorney General Barr had said on December 1st, 2020?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
KINZINGER: Mr. Chairman, I reserve.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Pursuant to the order of the committee of today, the chair declares the committee in recess for a period of approximately ten minutes.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Stunning testimony from two former top officials of the Donald Trump Justice Department, talking about the role that the president, a member of Congress, and a Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark played in trying to concoct the scheme to steal the election from the American people.
The testimony came, I think it's worth pointing out, from the Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and the acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue -- both of them former, of course -- who were individuals who were allegiant to Donald Trump. These were top Trump officials, top Trump Justice Department officials. And yet their allegiance to the Constitution and the facts of what happened in the 2020 election overrode that loyalty to President Trump.
They did not criticize Donald Trump at all personally, Dana Bash. They did not say anything negative about him.
They just described his behavior. I don't know that any of the people two believe these election lies are watching or listening, but it was really quite jarring testimony.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It was. And the way that they describe it, especially Richard Donoghue described the back and forth that he had, he called it a serial fashion.
He said he corrected the then president in a serial fashion when Donald Trump would say, allegation X, he would push back with facts that he had the justice department look into. Allegation Y, same thing. And he would go on and on and on, to the point where Donoghue said, Mr. President, he said he wanted to cut through the noise. He was very intentional, knowing that the president was -- his brain was being filled with these conspiracies.
Clearly, he was looking for the conspiracies. He could not get through to him.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: The other thing that was very compelling is how they pushed back on Jeffrey Clark, in no uncertain terms. Hirshman saying: Congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you take as attorney general would be committing a felony, talked about how they were clobbering him over the head. You're an environmental lawyer, how about you go back to your office and we'll call you when there's an oil spill -- over and over and over again.
And yet, Donald Trump wanted to put this man at the top of DOJ, just to overturn the election.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was very notable, they made it very clear, there was no reason for Trump to have known who Jeffrey Clark was. There was no business before the White House that Clark would have been authorized to talk to Trump about. They were confused as to why Jeffrey Clark's name even came out of Trump's mouth on the very first day that the Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen took on his job.
And Trump called him on the phone, as he did apparently every day for quite some time in the period of December and January and mentioned Jeff Clark. So this is someone two came more or less out of obscurity, but we got some important hints as to how Jeff Clark was injected into the blood stream of this conspiracy, members of Congress meeting with Trump at the White House in late December. The next day after that meeting, Scott Perry, the congressman who is allegedly sought a pardon, shows up back at the White House, and brings Jeffrey Clark back in tow.
He was there for the only purpose to basically say that there was corruption that happened, allowing the partisans, the corrupt partisans, by the way, to carry out an effort to overturn the results of the election in multiple states across the country with no evidence.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's stunning that Mr. Clark repeatedly ignored his superiors to stop, back down, this is not your place, because Mr. Clark thought he was working for the president of the United States. And they're leading us down the path, the resource now, to get more into the role of Mark Meadows and Congressman Perry, as this plays out, essentially that they had a shell operation, trying to work around the positions of power, and Trump land always smears people who come out and say these things.
I just want to remind you the day they were appointed, Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person -- that's Donald J. Trump -- an outstanding person who became acting attorney general, highly respected. Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of deputy attorney general. Thank you all.
TAPPER: Yeah, and, Anderson, one of the things that is really so shocking about this, is that I think it was former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, telling Jeffrey Clark, telling this freelancing, would-be attorney general that he was meddling in an election, that he was committing crimes, that he was breaking the law, and Clark kept doing it, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And Donoghue himself being told by the president in a late-night phone call, just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressman.
I want to bring in CNN's Evan Perez.
Evan, we just heard from three of these former top DOJ officials. I'm wondering what stood out to you. What are your big takeaways there?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, one of the things, Anderson, that hangs over all of this is whether these men ever heard Donald Trump tell them or order them to break the law, to do something illegal. And I think, you know, what I'm told is neither of these men believe that Trump ever ordered them to break the law. And that's an important thing, that's an important conclusion at least from -- or assessment from these men, who are very important witnesses to a key part of this attempt by the former president to overturn the election.
At least in their view, their view is that he was getting bad advice from people like Rudy Giuliani, from people like John Eastman, others who were essentially pushing forward the idea that he could find some legal way, some way to overturn the results of the election.
And in that way, keep himself in power. And that's the way they view this.
And so, one of the interesting things -- you know, I'm listening to this testimony is whether anyone asks that question of them. I don't know if anyone will. But that's where these men are.
COOPER: Yeah. Let's go to our team here in New York.
George Conway, I mean, stunning that they are able to find people who will subvert the will of the American people. That they will find people in the Justice Department willing to do this.
GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY: Absolutely. And it doesn't matter what these two witnesses think about whether or not Donald Trump broke the law. The question is the facts, and it will be up to a court of law if there's an indictment to figure out what the -- how the law applies and the facts to a jury.
And to me, the two -- obviously Herschmann thought what they were asking, what Trump was asking was a violation of the law. But to me, the two key points here are, one, the one that you -- the quote that you mentioned just a couple of minutes ago about just, just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen, Trump said.
And that is a brazen statement. It had nothing to do with the Justice Department's proper role in enforcing any federal law. It was basically asking the Justice Department to engage in a purely political act.
And then the draft letter from Clark, it wasn't about the Justice Department engaging, in enforcing federal law. It was urging state legislators to reconsider their slates of electors. These were political acts.
Donald Trump was turning the DOJ into a personal, political weapon. And that was illegal.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It was so important about that, I mean, I worked in a voting section, the voting rights section of the Justice Department. I have to really commend the attorneys here who said, look, the DOJ is not quality control for the states. If there are defects in the way that states, who are supposed to run their elections are running their elections, that doesn't mean that it's actual crime having occurred. Their job is an important one, but a limited one. In terms of trying to figure out to follow any threads, even if they went down rabbit holes, we actually saw this, was there criminal activity?
They followed these threads. They did not find activity that was criminal in any way, and they wanted them to simply meddle and put their thumb on the scale of an election, which is antithetical to exactly what you're supposed to do as a DOJ lawyer and a voting rights lawyer to say, you all run your election.
And what the result is, that's the result, that's (INAUDIBLE)
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And the only thing that stopped Trump was that meeting on January 3rd when they said there's going to be mass resignations. How is that going to look if your Justice Department resigns?
CONWAY: Right, it shows exactly how political --
BORGER: The White House counsel resigns.
COPNWAY: It shows exactly how political it was because Trump -- what set Trump back, what stopped him in his tracks was the he knew that whatever letter he got Clark to issue would have been overwhelmed by a Saturday night massacre -- (CROSSTALK)
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: -- about this is this happens in a very short period of time, because, of course, time is running out. This really happens at about two weeks, at the end of December and early January, and the president is getting, you heard, more agitated, more adamant. We've got to, you know, find some fraud here.
And Rosen and Donoghue keep saying, we checked this out. There is no fraud.
And then suddenly, they start hearing about Jeff Clark, and Jeff Clark is this relatively low-level person having nothing to do with the elections. And suddenly, they're hearing about him because Scott Perry, the congressman from Pennsylvania, has gotten into it and he's met with the president. Now, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, has gotten into it.
And suddenly, Jeff Clark, it's not a rogue operation. In fact, to a certain degree, there -- he's representing the president more than the people --
COOPER: And he's interviewing witnesses. And he's conducting his own --
WALLACE: And, you know, we can't emphasize enough the letter, to pick up on what George said, the letter that Clark wants to send to Georgia and to the other states and the specific lines were they were going to say the Department of Justice had identified significant concerns, and that states should consider sending alternate slates of electors in states that had voted a majority for Joe Biden for Donald Trump.
And, of course, that would have set up the situation where Mike Pence, on January 6th in front of Congress, would have been confronted in Georgia and in a variety of other swing states. Well, I got one slate of electors for Biden, one slate of electors for Trump. And they were hoping Pence would cave and say, well, either I'm going to recognize and count the Biden -- the Trump electors or I'll send it back to the states.
WALLACE: This was a very tightly wined (ph) conspiracy.
CONWAY: The letter combined a lie with a request that the Justice Department had no business making.
COATES: It's so offensive. And when I would go into a courtroom, when any department lawyer goes into a courtroom, you've got the stamp of approval and the stamp of the United States seal behind you. There's credibility, there's weight there.
They knew that. That's why they wanted as Congressman Kinzinger said, the DOJ stamp of approval. People thought they would believe.
COOPER: When the president says to Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, just say it was corrupt, he's not saying Donoghue, just say in your opinion it's corrupt, it's the Justice Department of the United States.
BORGER: That's right, and he knew that. He knew that. And that's why the threats from those -- from Donoghue and Rosen and Cipollone were so important.
COOPER: They're walking in now. It's about to resume.
CONWAY: It's classic Donald Trump. Donald Trump knows he has a credibility problem, so he always tries to get someone else to say something for him, even sometimes --
WALLACE: And it's John Eastman who sends in the guy to help Clark write the letter to the states.
BORGER: So they're connecting all the dots for us here today.
COOPER: Let's listen in.
THOMPSON: The committee will be in order. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois.
KINZINGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, around the time Mr. Clark was pushing for the department to send the Georgia letter, the president and his supporters were pressuring the Justice Department to take other actions to change the outcome of the 2020 election.
Mr. Engel, you were the head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Can you first off explain your role, what is that?
STEVE ENGEL, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sure. One of the attorney general's most important responsibilities is to provide legal advice to the president and to the executive branch. As a practical matter, given the responsibilities of the attorney general, the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel exercises that job on a day-to-day basis.
And so in addition, the head of OLC often functions as a general counsel essentially to the attorney general, so is often the chief legal adviser to the A.G.. as well as, you know, the White House and the executive branch more broadly.
KINZINGER: So, given that role, can you kind of describe your relationship with the president?
ENGEL: Well, you know, in connection with my role at OLC over the course of my tenure there, there were a number of instances in which folks at the White House would seek to bring me in to provide legal advice to the president, sometimes discussing the legal options that could be pursued among various policy -- to reach policy objectives. Sometimes to advise the president that a course of action they had been discussing was not legally available.
KINZINGER: So, I want to ask you about two things the president asked you and the department to do. The first is reflected in this email that we're going to put on the screen.
The president sent a draft lawsuit to be filed by the department and the Supreme Court. He wanted you, Mr. Rosen, and Mr. Cipollone, specifically, to review it. You and the department opposed filing it.
We see on the screen here that the talking points that you actually drafted on that. So you stated that there is no legal basis to bring this lawsuit. Anyone who thinks otherwise simply doesn't know the law, much less the Supreme Court.
Why was this the department's position?
ENGEL: Well, I mean, I think it was -- the memo sort of speaks to this. But, essentially, this was a draft lawsuit that apparently was prepared for people outside the department. It would be styled as brought by the United States and by the acting solicitor general as an original jurisdiction matter in the Supreme Court.
It was a meritless lawsuit that was not something that the department could or would bring. Somebody obviously prepared it, handed it to the president and forwarded it to us for our review. But that explains why the Justice Department, as Mr. Donoghue said earlier, doesn't have any standing to bring such a lawsuit. The lawsuit would have been untimely.
The states had chosen their electors. The electors had been certified. They've cast their votes. They've been sent to Washington, D.C. Neither Georgia nor any of the other states on December 28 or whenever this was, wasn't in a position to change those votes.
Essentially, the election had happened. The only thing that hadn't happened was the formal counting of the votes. And so, obviously, to the person who drafted this lawsuit didn't really understand in my view the law and/or how the Supreme Court works or the Department of Justice.
So it was just not something we were going to do, and the acting attorney general asked me to prepare a memo with talking points that he could explain our reasons when he spoke with the president about this.
KINZINGER: So, would you say it was an unusual request?
ENGEL: Certainly. You said the request that the department file a lawsuit from -- drafted by outside lawyers was certainly unusual.
KINZINGER: There was another issue you were asked to look into. In mid-December, did the White House ask Attorney General Barr to consider whether a special counsel could be appointed to look into election fraud issues?
ENGEL: Yes. I mean, the -- I mean, I think the president was probably vocal at the time that he believed that special counsel was something that should be considered to look into election fraud. And there is a specific request where the attorney general sought my legal advice in the middle of December.
KINZINGER: And what was your conclusion? What conclusion did you reach?
ENGEL: So, this request was whether the -- whether the attorney general could appoint as a special counsel a state attorney general to conduct an investigation. I mean, as a legal matter, under federal law, the attorney general actually has fairly wide discretion to delegate prosecutorial authority, including to state prosecutors, which happens to assist the department, you know, not uncommonly. Obviously, a state attorney general exercising prosecutorial authority on behalf of the Department of Justice would be fairly uncommon.
When we looked at the issue, we saw that the state law, the state was Louisiana, that the state, while precluded the Louisiana attorney general from accepting any position, any official if position on behalf of the United States government. So that -- that answered the question that it was not legally available.
KINZINGER: So, during your time at the department, was there ever any basis to appoint a special counsel to investigate President Trump's election fraud claims?
ENGEL: Well, neither Attorney General Barr nor Acting Attorney General Rosen did appoint a special counsel. You would appoint a special counsel when the department -- when there's a basis for an investigation and the department essentially has a conflict of interest.
It's important to get someone who is independent outside the department to handle such an investigation. Neither Attorney General Barr nor Acting Attorney General Rosen ever believed that that was appropriate or necessary in this case.
KINZINGER: In fact, Attorney General Barr had already told the president that there was no need for this special counsel. He actually stated that publicly, and we'll see that here in a video from December 21st.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: To the extent that there's an investigation, I think that it's being handled responsibly and professionally, currently within the department. And to this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel and I have no plan to do so before I leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KINZINGER: So, remember, December 21st was the same day President Trump met with Republican members at the White House to strategize about how to overturn the election, while his attorney general is out telling the public, again, that there was no widespread evidence of election fraud.
And yet, two days later, we have President Trump tweeting, again publicly pressuring the department to appoint a special counsel. He said, quote: After seeing the massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, I disagree with anyone that thinks a strong, fast, and fair special counsel is not needed immediately. This was the most corrupt election in the history of our country, and it must be closely examined.
The select committee's investigation revealed that President Trump went as far as to promise the job of special counsel, to now discredited former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell at a late night meeting on December 18.
((BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: On Friday, he asked me to be special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence, and he was extremely frustrated with the lack of, I would call it, law enforcement by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law in our republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: So, let's think here, what would a special counsel do with only days to go until election certification? It wasn't to investigate anything. An investigation, led by a special counsel, would just create an illusion of legitimacy and provide fake cover for those who would want to object, including those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. All of President Trump's plans for the Justice Department were being rebuffed by Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue, Mr. Engel and others. The President Trump became desperate, enter into the New York, with January 6 fast approaching.
President Trump rushed back early from Mar-a-Lago on December 31st and called an emergency meeting with the department's leadership.
Here's Mr. Donoghue describing the last-minute meeting held at the White House on New Year's Eve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president was a little more agitated than he had been on the meeting -- in the meeting on the 15th.
He discussed a variety of election matters.
He did say, "This sounds like the kind of thing that would warrant appointment of a special counsel".
There was a point at which the president something about, "Why don't you guys seize machines?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Mr. Rosen, the president asked you to seize voting machines from state governments. What was your response to that request?
JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: That we -- that we had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines, and I told him that the real experts at that had been at DHS and they had briefed us that they had looked at it, and that there was nothing wrong with the voting machines. And so that was not something that was appropriate to do.
KINZINGER: So there was no factual basis to seize machines.
Mr. Donoghue --
ROSEN: I don't think there was legal authority either.
KINZINGER: Mr. Donoghue, can you explain what the president did after he was told that the Justice Department would not seize voting machines?
DONOGHUE: The president was very agitated by the acting attorney general's response. And to the extent that machines and the technology was being discussed, the acting attorney general said that the DHS, Department of Homeland Security, has expertise in machines, and certifying them and making sure that the states are operating them properly.
And since DHS had been mentioned, the president yelled out to his secretary, "Get Ken Cuccinelli on the phone". And she did in a very short order. Mr. Cuccinelli was on the phone, he was number two at DHS at the time, he was on speakerphone, and the president essentially said, Ken, I'm sitting here with the acting attorney general. He just told me it's your job to seize machines and you're not doing your job. And Mr. Cuccinelli responded.
KINZINGER: Mr. Rosen, did you ever tell the president that the Department of Homeland Security could seize voting machines?
ROSEN: No, certainly not.
KINZINGER: Mr. Donoghue, during this meeting, did the president tell you that he would remove you and Mr. Rosen because you weren't declaring there was election fraud?
DONOGHUE: Toward the end of the meeting, the president, again, was getting very agitated. And he said, people tell me I should just get rid of both of you, I should just remove you and maybe change the leadership, put Jeff Clark in, and maybe something will finally get done. And I responded, as I think I had earlier in the December 27th call,
Mr. President, you should have the leadership that you want. But understand, the United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence, and law, and those are not going to change. So you can have whatever leadership you want, but the department's position is not going to change.
KINZINGER: The president's White House counsel Pat Cipollone was also present. Do you remember what his position was?
DONOGHUE: Pat was very supportive. Pat Cipollone, throughout these conversations, was extremely supportive of the Justice Department. He was consistent. I think he had an impossible job at that point, but he did it well and he always sided with the Justice Department in these discussions.
KINZINGER: Let's pause for a second. It's New Year's Eve. President Trump is talking about seizing voting machines and making the same demands that had already been shot down by former Attorney General Barr on at least three occasions, and by Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue on multiple other occasions.
Claim after claim knocked down, but the president didn't care. The next day, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sent a flurry of emails to you, Mr. Rosen, asking that the department look into a new set of allegations. We're going to put those emails here on the screen.
Here we see requests made on January 1st. One email is a request for Mr. Meadows to you, Mr. Rosen, to send Jeff Clark to Fulton County.
What did -- what did you do with this request?
ROSEN: Well, really nothing. Certainly didn't send Mr. Clark to Fulton County.
But that email was the first corroboration I had seen of Mr. Clark had told me at that point that the president was considering making the change by Monday, January 4th. So Mr. Meadows' email was something of a corroboration that there were discussions going on that I had been not been informed about by Mr. Clark or anybody else.
The second request that you have is to have the Department of Justice lawyers investigate allegations of fraud related to New Mexico. Mr. Rosen, did you have concern about these emails?
ROSEN: Yes. Really two concerns about that one. One was that it was coming from a campaign or political party. And it was really not our role to function as an arm of any campaign, for any party or any campaign. That wasn't our role.
That's part of why I had been unwilling to meet with Mr. Giuliani or any of the campaign people before. And the other part was, it was another one of these ones where lots of
work had already been done, and I thought it was a rehash of things that had been debunked previously.
KINZINGER: So final email here included a completely baseless conspiracy theory that an Italian defense contractor uploaded software to a satellite that switched votes from Trump to Biden. The Select Committee investigation found that this wild, baseless conspiracy theory made it from the recesses of the Internet to the highest echelons of our government.
On December 31st, Mr. Meadows received this Internet conspiracy theory from Representative Perry.
On the screen now is the text that Representative Perry sent to Mr. Meadows, copying the YouTube link with a message, quote, "Why can't we just work with the Italian government?"
The next day, the president's chief of staff sent the YouTube link to Mr. Rosen, who forwarded it to Mr. Donoghue.
Mr. Donoghue, did you watch this video?
DONOGHUE: I did, Congressman.
KINZINGER: How long was the video?
DONOGHUE: Approximately 20 minutes.
KINZINGER: Let's just take a look at an excerpt of that video, if we may.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRADLEY JOHNSON, CHIEF OF STATION (RET.): It's been said out of Rome, out of Italy is that this was done in the U.S. embassy. That there was a certain State Department guy whose name I don't know yet. I guess this is probably going to come out in Italy at some point. And he was the mastermind, not the mastermind, but the guy running the operation of changing the votes. And that he was not doing this in conjunction of support from MI6, the CIA, and this Leonardo group.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: Mr. Donoghue, what was your reaction when you watched that entire 20-minute video?
DONOGHUE: I emailed the acting attorney general and I said, pure insanity, which was my impression of the video, which was patently absurd.
KINZINGER: Mr. Rosen, you were asked by Mr. Meadows to meet with Mr. Johnson, who is the person in that video. What was your reaction to that request?
ROSEN: So ordinarily, I would get an email like this and there was no phone call. It would just, you know, come over the transom. But this one he called me, Mr. Meadows, and asked me to meet with Mr. Johnson.
And I told him, this whole thing about Italy had been debunked, and that should be the end of that. And I simply wasn't going to meet with this person. And he initially seemed to accept that.
He said, you know, why won't you meet with him? I said because if he has real evidence, which this video doesn't show, he can walk into an FBI field office anywhere in the United States, there's 55 of them. He said okay.
But then he called me back a few minutes later and complained and said, I didn't tell you, but this fellow, Johnson, is working with Rudy Giuliani, and Mr. Giuliani is really offended that you think they have to go to an FBI field office. That's insulting. So couldn't you just have the FBI or you meet with these guys?
And by then, I was somewhat agitated and told him that there was no way on earth that I was going to do that. I wasn't going to meet with Mr. Johnson. I certainly wasn't going to meet with Mr. Giuliani. I had made that clear repeatedly.
And so, that's the end of that. You know, don't raise this with me again. And so, because Mr. Donoghue and I had been exchanging our views about this, I think it was, yeah, 7:13 on a Friday night of New Year's Day, had run out of patience, and I sent the email you're talking about, where I made pretty clear I had no interest in doing anything further with this.
KINZINGER: Just to button this up, Mr. Donoghue, did you receive a follow up call from a Department of Defense official about this conspiracy?
DONOGHUE: I did. I believe it was that same day.
KINZINGER: Can you give details on that at all?
DONOGHUE: I received a telephone call from Kash Patel, who I know was a DOD official at that time, who worked for I believe Acting Defense Secretary Miller.
And he didn't know much about it. He basically said, do you know anything about this Italy thing, and what this is all about? And I informed him that chief of staff had raised the issue with us in his office on December 29th, that we had looked into it a little bit. We had run the name that was provided to us by the chief of staff.
I learned that that individual was in custody in Italy. He had been arrested for a cyber offense of some sort in Italy. The allegation was that he had been exfiltrating data from his company. He was either an employee or a contractor of that company. He was in custody, that the whole thing was very, very murky, at best. And the video was absurd.
But that we -- we at the department were not going to have anything to do with it. And DOD should make up its own mind as to what they're going to do. But I made it clear to him that I didn't think it was anything worth pursuing.
KINZINGER: He called the video absurd, and despite the absurdity of that conspiracy theory, we learned that Mr. Meadows discussed it frequently in the White House. And Mr. Meadows didn't let the matter go. The request went from the Department of Justice to the Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. As you will hear, Secretary Miller actually reached out to a high ranking official based in Italy to follow up on this claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER MILLER, FORMER ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The ask for him was can you call out the defense attache in Rome and find out what the heck is going on? Because I'm getting all these weird, crazy reports, and probably the guy on the grounds knows more than anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: The Select Committee confirmed that a call was placed by Secretary Miller to the attache in Italy to investigate the claim that Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Biden. This is one of the best examples of the lengths to which President Trump would go to stay in power, scouring the Internet to support his conspiracy theories shown here, as he told Mr. Donoghue in that December 27th call, quote, "You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do."
President Trump's efforts to this point had failed. Stonewalled by Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue, President Trump had only option. He needed to make Clark acting attorney general.
Mr. Rosen, during a January 2nd meeting with Mr. Clark, did you confront him again about his contact with the president? And if so, can you describe that?
ROSEN: So at this point, Mr. Clark had told us that the president had asked him to consider whether he would be willing to replace me, supposedly on a timetable by Monday, the 4th. And so I had told Mr. Clark I thought he was making a colossal error in judgment but I also hoped to persuade him to be more rational and to -- understood what we had understood, that there's not a factual basis for the fraud assertions that are being made.
So at this meeting, Mr. Donoghue and I met with Mr. Clark, and I guess my hopes were disappointed in that Mr. Clark continued to express the view that he thought there was fraud, even though he had not been a participant in the department's review of that. And that he was dissatisfied that we know what we were doing. So -- but he had acknowledged he had further -- I don't know if it was a meeting or phone calls or what, but further discussion with the president despite having a week earlier said that if, A, he wouldn't do that, and if he did, if he got an invitation to do that, he would let Rich Donoghue or me know.
So, we had -- it was a contentious meeting where we were chastising him that he was insubordinate, he was out of line, he had not honored his own representations of what he would do. And he raised, again, that he thought that letter should go out and we were not receptive to that.
KINZINGER: Did he tell you that the president offered him the job of acting attorney general?
ROSEN: That was a day later. On the 2nd, he said that the president had asked him to let him know if he would be willing to take it. Subsequently, he told me that on Sunday, the 3rd, he told me that the timeline had moved up, and that the president had offered him the job, and that he was accepting it.
KINZINGER: We'll ask (ph) about that. What was your reaction to that?
ROSEN: Well, you know, on the one hand, I wasn't going to accept being fired by my subordinate. So I wanted to talk to the president directly. With regard to the reason for that, I wanted to try to convince the president not to go down the wrong path that Mr. Clark seemed to be advocating.
And it wasn't about me. There was only 17 days left in the administration at that point. I would have been perfectly content to have either of the gentlemen on my left or right replace me if anyone wanted to do that. But I did not want for the Justice Department to be put in a posture where it would be doing things that were not consistent with the truth or not consistent with its own appropriate role or were not consistent with the Constitution.
So I did four things as soon as Mr. Clark left my office on that Sunday, the 3rd. Number one, I called Mark Meadows and said I need to see the president right away. He was agreeable and set up a meeting for 6:15 that Sunday. So about two hours away.
Two, I called Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and told him what was going on. He said he would go into the White House to make sure he was at the meeting and he would be supporting the Justice Department's position, as he had been doing consistently.
Three, I called Steve Engel, who was -- I was at the department. It was a Sunday, but there had been some reasons I needed to be there. Mr. Engel, I called at home and asked him if he could come in and go to the meeting, which he did, which proved to be quite helpful.
And number four, I asked Rich Donoghue and Pat Hovakimian, who had previously been my chief of staff, to get the department's senior leadership on a call and let them know what was going on and -- which they did. And then Eric Herschmann called me to tell me that he was going to go to the meeting and that he would be supporting the Department of Justice position, as well.
So I knew that the meeting was on course, and that I would have a number of people supportive of the Department of Justice's approach, and not supportive of Mr. Clark's approach.
KINZINGER: Did Mr. Clark ask you to continue to stay at the department?
ROSEN: That Sunday meeting, when he told me that he would be replacing me, he asked to see me alone, because usually, he had met with me and Mr. Donoghue, because he thought it would be appropriate in light of what was happening, to at least offer me that I could stay on as his deputy.
I thought that was preposterous. I told him that was nonsensical and that -- there was no universe where I was going to do that, stay on and support someone else doing things that were not consistent with what I thought should be done. So I didn't accept that offer, if I can put it that way.
KINZINGER: And during that meeting, did Mr. Clark ask you to sign the Georgia letter?
ROSEN: That was on the Saturday meeting January 2nd that Mr. Donoghue and I had with him. He again raised with both of us that he wanted us to both to sign that letter actually.
KINZINGER: So, in that meeting, did Mr. Clark say he would turn down the president's offer if you reversed your position and signed the letter?
KINZINGER: Did Mr. Clark -- so you still refused to sign and send that letter I take it?
ROSEN: That's right. I think Mr. Donoghue and I were both very consistent that there was no way we were going to sign that letter. And it didn't matter what Mr. Clark's, you know, proposition was in terms of his own activities. We were not going to sign that letter as long as we were in charge of the Justice Department.
KINZINGER: Thank you for that, by the way.
Mr. Donoghue, were you expecting to have to attend a meeting at the White House on Sunday, January 3rd?
DONOGHUE: No, as the acting A.G. indicated, we had a meeting that afternoon that related to preparations for January 6th. So I was at the department but I had no expectation of leaving the department. It was a Sunday afternoon.
And I was there in civilian clothes, as we both were and expected to have that meeting, do some other work. But I had no expectation of going to the White House that day.
KINZINGER: So, let's ask, so prior to that Oval Office meeting, did you set up a conference call with senior leadership at the department? And if so, tell us about that call.
DONOGHUE: Yeah. So, obviously, it was a bit of a scramble that afternoon to prepare for the Oval Office meeting. We had discussed on several occasions the acting attorney general and I, whether we should expand the circle of people who knew what was going on. It was very important that Steve Engel know.
And that's why I reached out to Steve on December 28th, because if Mr. Rosen were removed from the seat and the president did not appoint someone to serve as attorney general, just by function of the department's changed succession, Mr. Engel would be in the seat.
We want to make sure he knew what was going on should that occur.
So, the three of us knew. We also brought Pat Hovakimian in. So, the four of us know. But no one else, aside from Jeff Clark, of course, knew what was going on until late that Sunday afternoon. We chose to keep a close hold, because we didn't want to create concern or panic in the Justice Department leadership.
But at this point, I asked the acting A.G. what else can I do to help prepare for this meeting at the Oval Office. He said, you and Pat should get the AAGs on the phone and it's time to let them know what's going on. Let's find out what they may do if there's a change in leadership, because that will help inform the conversation at the Oval Office.
Pat Hovakimian subsequently set up that meeting. We got most, not all, but most of the AAGs on the phone. We very quickly explained to them what the situation was. I told them, I don't need an answer from you right now, I don't need an answer to this phone call, but if you have an answer, I need it in the next few minutes. So call me, email me, text me, whatever it is. If you know what you would do if Jeff Clark is put in charge of the department.
And immediately, Eric Dreiband, who was the AAG of the Civil Rights Division, said I don't need to think about it. There's no way I'm saying. And then the other AAGs began to chime in, and in turn all -- essentially said they would leave, they would resign en masse if the president made that change in the department leadership.
KINZINGER: Incredible. I'd like to look at the assistant attorneys general on the screen, if we can pull that up and have their pictures.
Did every assistant general you spoke to, as you said, agree to resign?
DONOGHUE: Makan Delrahim was not on the call only because we had some difficulty reaching him. But yes, the other people on the screen were on the call, and all, without hesitation, said they would resign.
KINZINGER: So as part of the select committee's investigation, we found out that while Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Engel were preparing for the meeting at the White House, Jeff Clark and the president were in constant communication beginning at 7:00 a.m.
White House call logs obtained by the committee show that by 4:19 p.m. on January 3rd, the White House had begun referring to Mr. Clark as the acting attorney general. As far as the White House was concerned, Mr. Clark was already at the top of the Justice Department. Two hours later, DOJ leadership arrived at the White House. The Select
Committee interviewed every person who was inside the room that -- was inside the room during this Sunday evening Oval Office meeting.
Mr. Cipollone told the committee that he was, quote, unmistakably angry during the meeting and he, along with Eric Herschmann and Mr. Donoghue, quote, forcefully challenged Mr. Clark to produce evidence of his election fraud theories.
Mr. Rosen, can you describe how that meeting started?
ROSEN: Yes. So after some preliminaries, so we -- Mr. Meadows had ushered us all in and then he left. So Mr. Cipollone did some introductions. The president then turned to me and he said, well, one thing we know is you, Rosen, you aren't going to do anything. You don't even agree with the claims of election fraud. And this other guy at least might do something.
And then I said, well, Mr. President, you're right that I'm not going to allow the Justice Department to do anything to try to overturn the election. That's true. But the reason for that is because that's what is consistent with the facts and the law. That's what's required under the Constitution. So that's the right answer, and a good thing for the country. And therefore, I submit it's the right thing for you, Mr. President.
And that kicked off another two hours of discussion in which everyone in the room was in one way or another making different points, but supportive, my approach for the Justice Department, and critical of Mr. Clark.
KINZINGER: So at some point, Mr. Donoghue comes into the room. Can you explain what led to him coming in the room?
ROSEN: Oh, I forgot about that. So, initially, in part because he was underdressed, and we had not arranged -- we had not yet told the president that he was going to come in. The White House had a list of who would be there, that didn't include Mr. Engel and the White House counsel and the deputy White House counsel Mr. Herschmann.
We went in and then we told the president, you know, maybe ten minutes into the meeting or something, I forget how far in, Mr. Donoghue was outside.
And he said, well, bring him in. And then Mr. Donoghue came in and joined the meeting.
KINZINGER: So, Mr. Donoghue, you entered that room. Can you set the scene for us and describe the tone you walked into?
DONOGHUE: Yes. But if I could back up one moment, Congressman. You just put the pictures up on the screen of the AAGs. I just want to make clear, one of the AAGs who was not on the screen was John Demers. John was the National Security Division AAG. John was on the call, but I prefaced the call by saying, John, we need
you to stay in place. National security is too important. We need to minimize the disruption. Whether you resign is up to you, obviously, and we'll respect your decision either way, but I'm asking you, please stay in place. And he did.
So I don't want to leave the impression that he was not willing to resign.
KINZINGER: Great. Thank you for -- thank you for that.
DONOGHUE: So with regard to entering the Oval Office, I was sitting in the hallway, and the administrative assistant passed by. She asked me, are you supposed to be in this meeting with the president? I said, no, I'm simply here in case questions come up that other people don't have the answer to. And she walked away and came back probably 30 seconds later and said the president wants you in the meeting.
I proceeded into the Oval Office. I took probably two, three steps in and I stopped, because I was, as the A.G. said, not exactly properly attired. I was wearing jeans and muddy boots and army T-shirt. And I never would arrive in the Oval Office this way. I said Mr. President, I'm sorry. I didn't know I was going to be here. He said no, no, just come in, come in.
So I went in, I attempted to take a seat on one of the couches behind the chairs, or right in front of the president's desk. And he said, oh, no, no, no. You're going to be up here. And everyone kind of laughed, and they moved the chairs a little bit.
Someone from the White House Counsel's Office picked up a spare chair and put it directly in front of the president and I took that seat.
KINZINGER: Was there discussion about Mr. Clark? Can you -- can you kind of enlighten some of what that discussion was?
DONOGHUE: Yes. So the conversation at this point had moved beyond the specific allegations. Whether it was State Farm Arena or Antrim County, or Pennsylvania or whatever, we had discussed those repeatedly, and the convers -- that was backdrop to the conversation.
But the conversation at this point was really about whether the president should remove Jeff Rosen and replace him with Jeff Clark. And everyone in the room I think understood that meant that letter would go out. So that was the focus. It was about a 2 1/2 hour meeting after I entered. And so, there were discussions about the pros and cons of doing that.
Early on, the president said, what do I have to lose? And it was actually a good opening. Because I said, Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose.
And I began to explain what he had to lose. And what the country had to lose, and what the department had to lose. And this was not in anyone's best interest. That conversation went on for some time. Everyone essentially chimed
in with their own thoughts, all of which were consistent about how damaging this would be to the country, to the department, to the administration, to him personally. And at some point, the conversation turned to whether Jeff Clark was even qualified, competent to run the Justice Department, which in my mind he clearly was not.
And it was a heated conversation. I thought it was useful to point out to the president that Jeff Clark simply didn't have the skills, the ability, and the experience to run the department.
And so, I said, Mr. President, you're talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case, who has never conducted a criminal investigation. And he's telling you that he's going to take charge of the department, 115,000 employees, including the entire FBI, and turn the place on a dime and conduct nationwide criminal investigations that will produce results in a matter of days. It's impossible. It's absurd. It's not going to happen, and it's going to fail.
He has never been in front of a trial jury, a grand jury. He's never even been to Chris Wray's office. I said at one point, if you walk into Chris Wray's office, one, would you know how get there? And, two, if you got there, would he even know who you are? Do you really think that the FBI is going to start suddenly following his orders? It's not going to happen. He's not competent.
And that's the point at which Mr. Clark tried to defend himself by saying I've been involved in very significant civil and environmental litigation. I've argued many appeals in appellate courts and things of that nature. And I pointed out that yes, he was an environmental lawyer and I didn't think that was an appropriate background to be running the United States Justice Department.
KINZINGER: Did anybody in there support Mr. Clark?
DONOGHUE: No one.