The committee is now in recess, but before they finished, Richard Donoghue described his reaction when he first learned of Jeffrey Clark’s proposed letter to the Georgia legislature asking them to convene to declare alternate electoral college voters.
“I had to read both the email and the attached letter twice to make sure I really understood what he was proposing because it was so extreme to me I had a hard time getting my head around it initially,” Donoghue said.
He responded in writing to Clark’s letter, saying that its allegations were “not based on facts,” and, in his view, “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 that he understood the gravity of the situation because he didn’t seem to really appreciate it.”
Clark himself made a brief appearance in video testimony the committee played before it took its break, responding to questions by asserting his fifth amendment rights and executive privilege.
The committee will reconvene in a few minutes.
One name that’s coming up a lot in this hearing is Scott Perry, the Pennsylvania Republican congressman who the committee said took part in Trump’s plan to pressure the justice department, and in particular install Jeff Clark at its helm.
The committee just showed text messages between Perry and Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, which showed the lawmaker encouraging Meadows to work on promoting Clark. Richard Donoghue also detailed a phone call from Perry where the congressman claimed fraud in the results in Pennsylvania from the 2020 election – which the justice department determined unfounded.
The committee had sought documents and requested an interview with Perry last year, but the Republican refused to comply. Last month, Perry was among a group of congressmen subpoenaed by the committee.
Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general, is outlining his efforts to convince the president that the justice department could not interfere with a state’s election.
“States run their elections. We are not quality control for the states,” he recalled explaining to Trump. “The bottom line was, if a state ran their election in such a way that it was defective, that is to the state or Congress to correct, it is not for the justice department to step in.”
But Trump wanted something simpler, Donoghue said.
“That’s not what I’m asking you to do,” Donoghue told the committee Trump said after he explained the department’s position. “Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” the president said.
Today’s hearing is focusing on the inner workings of the justice department, but as in previous sessions, the committee has tried to make sure the insurrection isn’t far from viewers’ minds.
Case in point: lawmakers just aired video from the day of the attack showing marchers chanting “Do your job!” outside the justice department — evidence that Trump’s most ardent supporters were well aware of the president’s attempts to push government lawyers to interfere with Joe Biden’s victory.
But as justice department officials tell it, they never believed in Trump’s fraud claims. Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general, said Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone described the letter Clark wanted to send for Trump as a “murder-suicide pact. It’s going to damage everyone who touches it.”
The committee’s top Republican Liz Cheney is offering more details about the actions of justice department official Jeffrey Clark, who had his house raided today by federal investigators.
According to Cheney, Clark and another justice department lawyer drafted a letter addressed to the Georgia state legislature, which would have said the department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia”, and that the legislature should convene and consider approving a new slate of electors. Joe Biden had won Georgia, but Trump made baseless allegations of fraud in the polls, and the new electors would have presumably given him the state’s electoral votes.
“In fact, Donald Trump knew this was a lie,” Cheney said. “The Department of Justice had already informed the president of the United States repeatedly that its investigations had found no fraud sufficient to overturn the results of the 2020 election.”
Cheney said Clark had met with Trump privately and agreed to help him sway these states’ legislatures without telling his bosses at the justice department. But Cheney said Clark’s superiors – who are the witnesses testifying today – refused to sign it. That was when Trump began considering installing Clark at the helm at the justice department – which he never ended up doing.
The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has started its fifth hearing, which will focus on Donald Trump’s efforts to get the justice department to go along with his plans to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Testifying in the chamber will be:
- Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general for the final weeks of Trump’s term, including during the attack on the Capitol.
- Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general, who appeared in a video aired at the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing threatening to resign if Trump appointed Jeffrey Clark to head the justice department.
- Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel.
We’re about 10 minutes away from the start of today’s January 6 hearing, which my colleague Lauren Gambino reports will offer new evidence of how Trump pressured the justice department to take part in his plot to overturn the 2020 election:
The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection plans to present new evidence on Thursday about Donald Trump’s brazen attempts to pressure the justice department to overturn the 2020 presidential election that he lost, aides said.
After exhausting his legal options and being rebuffed by state and local elections officials, the president turned to the justice department to declare the election corrupt despite no evidence of mass voter fraud, the nine-member panel will seek to show in their fifth and final hearing of the month.
Testifying from the Cannon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill are Jeffrey Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel.
One of the more recent characters in the January 6 drama is Alex Holder, a British documentary film-maker who interviewed Donald Trump, his vice-president Mike Pence and various Trump family members in the closing days of his administration.
The January 6 committee subpoenaed Holder earlier this week for his footage, which from what a teaser for his documentary entitled Unprecedented shows does indeed offer a closeup look at the Trump administration:
Holder has released only a brief statement about his meeting with officials from the committee:
However, he strenuously denied allegations, likely from a CNN report, that Trump allies participated in Holder’s interviews because they believed they’d have editorial control over the project, and are now nervous about what they may have said on camera:
As proof, Holder just posted about a minute of footage that shows Donald Trump pondering the set-up for what would appear to be one of his interviews:
The fifth hearing of the House January 6 committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol by extremist supporters of then-president Donald Trump, and events surrounding it, is due to begin in an hour.
It has been all about guns so far today in Washington, with two branches of government moving in sharply different directions when it comes to firearms access.
The US Supreme Court has thrown out a New York law regulating concealed weapon possession, giving most Americans the right to carry a concealed gun in public. Meanwhile, the Senate is closer to passing a bipartisan gun control bill that’s intended to respond to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
Let’s look at the day’s events thus far:
- Kamala Harris said the supreme court ruling was “deeply troubling” and there was an urgent need to legislation, while “lives are at stake”.
- The US Senate further advanced a bill tightening gun access, its most significant legislation controlling firearms in decades.
- Joe Biden expressed his disappointment over the supreme court ruling, and backed efforts by states to find new ways to regulate guns in response.
- New York governor Kathy Hochul condemned the decision, calling today a “dark day” and vowing a response from the state.
- The US Supreme Court issued a major ruling that has invalidated a New York law that regulated who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public, vastly expanding gun rights for Americans.
- The House January 6 committee’s fifth hearing will take place, in which lawmakers are to explore former president Donald Trump’s efforts to get the justice department to comply with his scheme to overturn the 2020 election.
More high-level reaction to this morning’s US supreme court decision vastly expanding Americans’ gun rights.
US vice-president Kamala Harris has packed a lot into one tweet.
Harris has to be mindful of not being seen to try to upstage her “deeply disappointed” boss, of course. Neither politician expressed outrage, as such.
Meanwhile, the House Speaker and fellow California Democrat Nancy Pelosi has issued a statement, also slamming a conservative-leaning supermajority on a politicized bench and calling it radical.
It is unfathomable that, while families in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities mourn their loved ones stolen by gun violence, a supermajority of the Supreme Court has chosen to endanger more American lives.
Today’s decision by a radical, Republican-controlled Court extends what was intended to be a limited right to self-defense at home to a new right to bring guns into our public spaces.
“Disturbingly, the twisted logic of this ruling could hinder the ability of local, state and federal governments to keep families safe from gun violence – at a time when urgent steps are deeply needed.
By making it more difficult to enact measures that reduce gun violence, the GOP Supermajority Court is condoning the horrific mass shootings and ongoing tragedy of daily gun deaths plaguing our nation.
“Despite this ill-considered ruling, Democrats will never relent in our fight to end the scourge of gun violence. While more is needed, the bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation advancing in the Senate includes a number of important steps that will save lives and must become law.
At the same time, our House Democratic Majority is carrying on our fight to protect our children by raising the age to buy assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, ensuring safe storage requirements, continuing our fight for background checks for purchases of guns and even high-capacity magazines, and more. As we always promise the courageous survivors of gun violence, we will keep fighting until the job is done.”
Federal investigators searched the home of former Trump administration justice department official Jeffrey Clark yesterday morning as part of the department’s criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a source familiar with the matter.
It was not immediately clear what investigators were looking for or which agencies were involved, though Clark was a key figure in former president Donald Trump’s unsuccessful plans to coerce the justice department into endorsing his election fraud claims as he attempted to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden.
Federal investigators descended on Clark’s home in Virginia, the source confirmed, a day before the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack planned to highlight his involvement in Trump’s plans, at its fifth public hearing this afternoon.
In a statement on the search, Trump’s former director for the office of management and budget, Russ Vought said: “more than a dozen DoJ law enforcement officials searched Jeff Clark’s house in a pre-dawn raid” and “took his electronic devices.”
Vought is now the head of the Center for Renewing America, where Clark also works.
Clark and a spokesman for the justice department could not be reached for comment.
Today’s hearing is expected to show how Trump improperly pressured top justice department officials to falsely declare that the 2020 election was corrupt, and how Trump only decided against firing them for refusing to go ahead with his plans when threatened with mass resignations.
And it will bring attention to a memorably turbulent stretch at the department as Trump in his final days in office sought to bend to his will a law enforcement agency that has long cherished its independence from the White House, the Associated Press adds.
The testimony is aimed at showing how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to press his false claims of election fraud but also tried to leverage the powers of federal executive branch agencies.
The witnesses will include Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.
Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump contemplated replacing him with the lower-level official Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump’s bogus election fraud claims.
The Department of Justice has released a statement from spokeswoman Dena Iverson, following the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court’s decision in the gun rights case, namely New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc, et al versus Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police, et al.
We respectfully disagree with the Court’s conclusion that the Second Amendment forbids New York’s reasonable requirement that individuals seeking to carry a concealed handgun must show that they need to do so for self-defense.
The Department of Justice remains committed to saving innocent lives by enforcing and defending federal firearms laws, partnering with state, local and tribal authorities and using all legally available tools to tackle the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our communities,” the statement reads.
This far-reaching decision by the supreme court is the most important ruling on gun laws by the highest US court in more than 10 years.
The District of Columbia v Heller decision in 2008 that reversed a firearms ban for the general public in Washington, DC, in a key ruling issued by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that interpreted the second amendment to the US constitution as supporting an individual’s right to have guns for private uses, including self-defense.
And in 2010 there was the ruling in McDonald v Chicago, in which the court decided that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, applies to state and local governments as well as the federal government.
The US Senate has further advanced a bill tightening gun access, its most significant legislation controlling firearms in decades and a response to the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the racist massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
The legislation that would invest in mental health services and red-flag laws as well as cut off gun access for domestic abusers is the result of days of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to find a compromise on the issue, one of the most contentious in Congress.
It won the votes of every Democrat in the evenly divided chamber, as well as 15 Republicans, more than enough to overcome filibusters from their colleagues and take the bill to the next step.
Final passage of the $13 billion measure was expected by week’s end with a House vote to follow, though timing was uncertain, the Associated Press noted.
This post has been modified to clarify that the legislation is still moving through the Senate and has not yet been passed in that chamber.
The National Rifle Association has unsurprisingly hailed the supreme court’s decision as a victory.
“Today’s ruling is a watershed win for good men and women all across America and is the result of a decades-long fight the NRA has led,” the group’s executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre said in a statement. “The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at your home. This ruling brings life-saving justice to law-abiding Americans who have lived under unconstitutional regimes all across our country, particularly in cities and states with revolving door criminal justice systems, no cash bail and increased harassment of law-enforcement. ”
The powerful gun lobbying group highlighted its lengthy efforts to overturn state restrictions on carrying concealed weapons.
“This is more than just a great day for New York because this ruling opens the door to rightly change the law in the seven remaining jurisdictions that still don’t recognize the right to carry a firearm for personal protection. The NRA has been at the forefront of this movement for over 30 years and was proud to bring this successful challenge to New York’s unconstitutional law,” Jason Ouimet, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm the Institute for Legislative Action.
While the NRA is a powerful group in Washington, it’s also embroiled in a corruption scandal that’s ensnared LaPierre and other members of its leadership.
Saying he was “deeply disappointed”, President Joe Biden has issued a statement condemning the supreme court’s ruling that greatly expands the right to carry concealed weapons across the United States.
“Since 1911, the State of New York has required individuals who would like to carry a concealed weapon in public to show a need to do so for the purpose of self-defense and to acquire a license. More than a century later, the United States supreme court has chosen to strike down New York’s long-established authority to protect its citizens. This ruling contradicts both common sense and the constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” Biden said.
He backed efforts by states to respond to the court’s ruling with new regulations.
“As the late Justice Scalia recognized, the Second Amendment is not absolute. For centuries, states have regulated who may purchase or possess weapons, the types of weapons they may use, and the places they may carry those weapons. And the courts have upheld these regulations,” the president wrote, referring to the conservative justice who died in 2016.
Concluding with an appeal for action, Biden said, “I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line.”
Gun control groups have vowed to continue fighting despite the supreme court’s expansion of concealed carry rights, including by finding legal avenues for states to limit gun possession.
In a statement, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said, “Today’s ruling is out of step with the bipartisan majority in Congress that is on the verge of passing significant gun safety legislation, and out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Americans who support gun safety measures. Let’s be clear: the supreme court got this decision wrong, choosing to put our communities in even greater danger with gun violence on the rise across the country.”
“The supreme court misapplied fundamental constitutional principles in ruling against New York,” chief litigation counsel at Everytown Law Eric Tirschwell said. “Even so, states can still pass and enforce a wide array of laws to keep public spaces safe from gun violence, and we’re ready to go to court to defend these laws.”
The supreme court finished issuing opinions for the day with its blockbuster ruling on gun access, but across the street at the Capitol, the Senate is in the midst of considering a gun control bill that would be the most significant in decades.
Senator majority leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech on the chamber’s floor that passing the measure, which cleared a crucial procedural vote on Tuesday, is his top priority.
“It’s been a long time, but this breakthrough is welcome. So, I urge my Republican colleagues, let’s get this bill passed, and pass it today,” Schumer said. “Americans have waited long enough. Let’s finish our job today.”
The bill represents Congress’s response to the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, and appears to have enough support from both parties to pass the evenly divided Senate, as well as the House of Representatives. However its lacks many of the more stringent measures Democrats hoped would be enacted following those mass shootings, including raising the age to buy an assault weapon to 21 from 18. It also would have no impact on the supreme court ruling that opens the door for almost all Americans to carry concealed weapons.