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Let's Listen To Trump's Own Lawyers Tell Us How Insanely Illegal This Coup Plot Was! A LIVE-BLOG!
Spoiler Alert: It was HELLA ILLEGAL.
We're back for a fifth day of the House January 6 Select Committee hearings to 'splain Donald Trump's plot to overthrow the government and stay in power after the American people told him in no uncertain terms to get the hell out. Today's hearing will feature three of Donald Trump's own lawyers: former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who headed Trump's Office of Legal Counsel.
All of these guys are dyed in the wool Republicans, and all of them were totally down with the crazy shit Trump did trying to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the year before. Not saying that Your Wonkette wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire, but ... maybe it's best if we never test that hypothesis out, okay?
They did head off an attempted coup at the Justice Department though, so props to them for that! Here's a longer rundown , but, long story short, Jeffrey Clark, the head of the Environmental Division, tried to get the Department of Justice to announce investigations of non-existent election fraud in the swing states as a pretext for Republican-dominated legislatures to claw back Biden's electoral votes and recast them for Trump. Trump was only talked out of a plan to make Clark Attorney General — with 17 days left in his administration — and allow him to weaponize the DOJ after Rosen, Donoghue, and Engel, as well as many of their colleagues at the DOJ and in the White House Counsel's Office, threatened to resign in protest.
And, oh, hey, right on time, looks like Jeff Clark, who pled the Fifth before the committee, got his electronic devices confiscated by the FBI this morning. Also it looks like people associated with Trump's fake elector scheme in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, and New Mexico got grand jury subpoenas from Uncle Merrick this week. Looks like it's fuck around and find out o'clock!
Catch up on Day 1 , Day 2 , Day 3 , Day 4 at the links. And if you want to play like it's Pee-Wee's Playhouse, the word of the day is Scott Perry, as in Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry , who introduced Clark to Trump , organized the pre-riot rally with Mark Meadows, and reportedly asked for a pardon after the riot.
Let's get after it!
2: 58Camera is all over actor Sean Penn sitting with Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone, but manages to tear itself away as witnesses Jeffrey Rosen, Rich Donoghue, and Steven Engel file in.
3: 05On Thursdays, we wear black and white! Committee's female members color coordinated, Vice Chair Liz Cheney looks mad enough to knife someone. Note that at the last hearing Cheney put Trump's White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on blast, reading him for filth over his refusal to testify publicly.
“A person close to Pat Cipollone said he has been cooperative with the committee with Trump's permission, but that there are serious institutional concerns and privilege issues that the person said have been recognized by the committee.”
— Maggie Haberman (@Maggie Haberman) 1655842646
3: 10After a preliminary statement from Chair Bennie Thompson summarizing what we've already heard, he turns the mike over to Liz Cheney to say that President Crime Boss needs to go the fuck to jail.
Cheney introduces Jeff Clark and his henchman Ken Klukowski, today's villains. See this link for background.
3: 15Cheney refers to the "proof of concept" letter Jeff Clark tried to get Rosen and Donoghue to sign and send to the states announcing non-existent DOJ investigations of non-existent electoral fraud as a pretext to "recast" electoral votes for Trump.
And we're back to AG Bill Barr saying the fraud allegations were total bullshit. (Note, he's retconning a justification for breaking DOJ's own rules not to announce investigations which might have political implications close to an election. Lest we forget that Barr pretended there might actually be something to the screams of fraud.)
3: 20Now Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican on the committee, is making an opening statement. He praises the witnesses for being willing to quit the DOJ to stop the coup. (But not willing to say anything about it publicly, LOL!)
"Losing a job is nothing compared to losing your life," Kinzinger says. Which is kind of poignant, since he's been drummed out of Congress and the GOP for his own integrity.
"Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," Trump said to Donoghue in December 2021.
Kinzinger is laying out the plan to weaponize the DOJ to keep Commander Crime Time in power.
3: 25We're now getting testimony from Donoghue and Trump White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, of the F-bombs and sharp elbows , about the infamous January 3, 2020, Oval Office meeting where Clark tried to get himself put in charge of the DOJ to investigate the claims of Chinese thermostat and Italian space laser election fraud.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called Clark's letter "a murder-suicide pact." Donoghue told Clark, an environmental lawyer, to go back to his office and they'd call him if there was an oil spill.
3: 28Thompson is introducing the witnesses, who do NOT look happy to be here.
3: 32THOMPSON: Did Trump make you investigate these stupid lies about election fraud?
THOMPSON: How often?
ROSEN: Every damn day.
THOMPSON: Show us on the doll where Trump tried to molest the American people?
ROSEN: You don't even want to know what he wanted to let Rudy Giuliani do to the DOJ.
3: 35Seriously, Rosen is describing a persistent campaign to get the DOJ to coordinate with the Trump campaign to bless Rudy's wackass election fraud claims.
Donoghue is testifying about the lies that Dominion voting machines in Antrim County, MI, had a 68% error rate. Incidentally, Trump and his allies ruined the clerk's life in Antrim County, the way they did to Shaye Moss and her mother in Georgia.
3: 40Kinzinger is back with a video of Maria Bartiromo screeching on the phone with Trump about the DOJ being "missing in action."
And now we're getting footage of Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Jim Jordan, and Mo Brooks telling lies that there was a possibility of overturning the election result on January 6. Hi, traitors!
3: 42Donoghue testifies that the DOJ investigated every crackpot theory Trump put forward and told the president time and time again that there was zero merit to the allegations, "to correct him in a serial fashion as he moved from one theory to another."
Donoghue notes that there was a hand recount in Antrim County which showed that there was ONE error in 15,000 ballots. Discusses the various conspiracy theories that they had to bat down, over and over again.
3: 45Donoghue is a hell of a good witness. Very sure, very clear, lot of gravitas.
Here are Donoghue's notes of the December 27, 2020, phone call between Rosen and Trump in which they explained to Trump AGAIN that the DOJ did not have standing to intercede at, among other places, the Supreme Court.
This is where Trump asked them to "just say it was corrupt, and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
3: 52Kinzinger introduces the villain of the day: "What was going to help him? Jeff Clark."
Rosen was Clark's boss, and it was wildly inappropriate for Clark to being going behind his boss's back to talk to the president — there should be no contact between the DOJ, a supposedly independent law enforcement agency, and the president. So when Trump mentioned Clark in passing to Rosen on December 24, Rosen knew shit was about to go sideways.
Kinzinger shows video of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green explaining to Sean Spicer on his show that there was a White House meeting on December 22 with freakshow Gippers about a plan to stop electoral certification. Rep. Scott Perry (drink!) was at the meeting, and he came back the next day with Jeff Clark.
3: 55Oh, no, it's Rudy! He says that they needed someone at DOJ who wasn't "afraid" to investigate election fraud.
Mark Meadows's aide Cassidy Hutchinson testifies that Perry was pushing hard to get Clark made acting AG.
4: 02Engel and Rosen are talking about how important it is for the Justice Department to be independent of the White House. Funny, they weren't so worked up when Trump intervened to ratfuck the prosecutions of Roger Stone and Mike Flynn.
Ooh, we're getting text messages between Perry and Meadows about getting Clark put in charge of the DOJ.
The next day Perry called Donoghue and told him to investigate the election results in Pennsylvania. Perry sent him a document purporting to prove there was fraud. The US Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania, a Trump appointee, investigated it and found there was nothing there.
Perry told Donoghue that Clark was the right man to investigate the election fraud which did not exist.
Time for Liz Cheney to fuck shit up!
4: 05Now we're back to Clark's batshit letter to Georgia elected officials encouraging them to claw back electors.
Donoghue said that he sat down to draft an email shutting that shit down "promptly."
Rosen and Donoghue hauled Clark into his office immediately to tell him how wildly inappropriate it was to put the DOJ in the middle of a political campaign. But Clark wasn't deterred and spent the rest of the week "calling witnesses and conducting investigations of his own." Clark even ordered up a briefing from the Director of National Intelligence on the harebrained Chinese thermostat election rigging theory.
No matter that his theories had been disproven, Clark kept insisting that it was okay for the DOJ to interfere in the election because "others" had interfered to rig it for Biden.
Hi, Ken Klukowski, Jeff Clark's henchman imported after the election from the Office of Management and Budget. Klukowski drafted the Georgia letter, and was simultaneously working with John Eastman.
4: 10After obligatory footage of Jeff Clark taking the Fifth over and over, we are in ten minute recess.
Here's some background on Klukowski, who is a gross bigot in addition to being a coup plotter.
And a reminder that the FBI showed up at Jeff Clark's door this morning and confiscated his electronic devices. Sad!
4: 25Okay, we are back! Rep. Kinzinger is detailing the pressure campaign against the DOJ, asks Steven Engel to explain what the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) does for the DOJ. Engel explains that it is a legal advisor to the DOJ, sometimes providing legal opinions to the president. Like, say, if the president wants the DOJ to file a lawsuit at the Supreme Court contesting the election results, the OLC will tell say THAT'S NOT A THING, YOU GODDAMN BLOODY IDIOT.
Which is more or less what happened between Christmas and New Years in 2020, when one of the weirdo MAGA lawyers drafted a piece of crap lawsuit and tried to get the DOJ to put its name on it.
4: 30Trump also wanted to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate election fraud. First Trump wanted Krakenhead Sidney Powell , and then he wanted the Louisiana Attorney General. OLC said that the LA AG couldn't simultaneously represent a state and the federal government. But besides that, Barr had already told Trump privately and announced publicly that there was no fraud to investigate.
Woof, Sidney Powell looks rough. Wonder why .
4: 32KINZINGER: You hear this shit about Trump wanting those goons from Homeland Security to seize the voting machines from the states?
ENGEL: Hear it? I was there, man!
KINZINGER: Was that legal?
ENGEL: Hell. No.
4: 35Oh, boy, we're at the point where Mark Meadows started pressuring the DOJ about crazy shit, including the Italian Space laser theory , a theory being flogged by Rep. Perry (ooh, we're all getting plastered today). Which is hilarious, but also the White House COS spamming the DOJ with campaign docs is wildly inappropriate.
4: 40Meadows asked Rosen on New Year's Eve to meet with the weirdo behind the Italian Space Laser YouTube video, complaining that Rudy Giuliani and the weirdo were buddies, and it was insulting to send them to go bother some nobody in the FBI field office. Wouldn't AG Rosen just sit down with them personally?
In fact, he would not. No, not even if Devin Nunes's creature Kash Patel asked them, too.
4: 45LOL, Meadows made the Secretary of Defense harass the Italian embassy to investigate this space laser shit.
Clark told Rosen he'd done a lot of internet research, and he thought it would be best if he got put in charge of the DOJ to investigate those very convincing 8chan theories. On January 3, Clark told Rosen that Trump had offered him (Clark) Rosen's job — with 17 days left until the inauguration.
Rosen swung into action, rounding up Cipollone, Engel, Donoghue, and Herschmann for a meeting later that day. And Donoghue warned the leadership at DOJ that shit was about to go down.
4: 50For background, Rosen had been Clark's mentor in private practice at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. And Clark was stabbing him in the back — although he did offer generously to let Rosen stay on as his subordinate.
Rosen was not down with this shit.
4: 53Donoghue got the assistant AGs on the line for a conference call to ask what they would do if Clark got put in charge. They all agreed that they would resign en masse , essentially decapitating the DOJ.
LOL, look the White House call logs were already referring to Clark as acting AG before the meeting even took place.
4: 55The showdown was UGLY, with Trump accusing Rosen of being a weakling, refusing to do what he wanted. After which everyone in the room except Jeff Clark told Trump that it was insanely inappropriate and illegal to use the DOJ to thwart the orderly transfer of power.
5: 00Trump said, "What do I have to lose?"
Donoghue said, "You have a lot to lose." And then Donoghue told him that the entire leadership would resign if Clark got put in charge.
Then Donoghue said Clark couldn't do shit anyway, since he's never even tried a criminal case. Clark didn't have the legal skills, didn't have the leadership skills, couldn't even find the mens room at the FBI, much less Chris Wray's office.
5: 01KINZINGER: Were you just pissed about getting fired?
ROSEN: Nah, they could have put Donoghue in charge and I'd have taken my 17 days of vacation. Clark is fuckin' nuts!
5: 05Donoghue, Rosen, Engel said there would be "hundreds and hundreds of resignations" across the entire Justice Department if Trump went through with it.
Trump: "Steve, you wouldn't leave, would you?"
Engel: "Mr. President, I would. ... No one is going to read this [resignation] letter, they're just going to see that you went through two attorneys general until you found an environmental lawyer to do what you want."
5: 07Trump asked if Donoghue and Rosen were going to fire Clark. Donoghue said no, because Clark was Senate-confirmed and only Trump could fire him.
The meeting broke up, and then ... Trump called Donoghue 90 minutes later to report some insane theory about a truck full of ballots intercepted by DHS. Clearly Trump wasn't done.
That was January 3, and three days later Trump was back on his bullshit, telling the mob the same theories the DOJ had already knocked down.
5: 12Rosen is testifying about being at DOJ on January 6, fielding calls from other Cabinet members and multiple members of Congress. Rosen said he sent 500 FBI and ATF agents, as well as US marshals, to restore order at the Capitol.
Rosen also spoke to Pence and congressional leaders right after the rioters were evicted from the Capitol, discussing when they could reconvene to certify the votes. Donoghue himself went down to the Capitol with the security detail and stayed until Congress gaveled back in and the facility was secure.
5: 19"My colleagues also took an oath," Kinzinger states, before introducing the pardon scheme.
Herschmann testifies that congressmen involved in planning the insurrection were seeking "a pardon as broad as you could describe ... for any and all things."
Hutchinson testifies that Reps. Gaetz, Brooks, Banks, Gohmert, and Perry wanted a blanket pardon for people involved in the December meetings with the White House. She says she heard that Rep. Taylor Green asked the White House Counsel's Office for a pardon, and that Gaetz in particular wanted a "blanket pardon." HMM, WONDER WHY.
McEntee also testifies that Gaetz told him he'd asked Meadows for a pardon.
5: 22Kinzinger is giving a stemwinder of a closer summing up today's testimony, and laying it on thick thanking the GOP lawyers who testified today.
"When the leader of the free world demanded otherwise, they threatened to resign to protect democracy."
Unlike Jeff Clark and his buddies in Congress who were so hot to get a get out of jail free pardon card.
"It's now up to every American to stand for truth and reject the lies," Kinzinger says. It's a beautiful and sad swan song for a six-term congressman who is leaving a pariah in his own party.
4: 25Liz Cheney, who also got unperson-ed by the GOP, follows, praising the witnesses who will now be labeled as members of the Deep State. Cheney is playing for history, echoing her prior statements that Trump will be gone but the truth remains.
Thompson closes, reminding the audience that there was never any proof of fraud, that Trump lost in court, and that Trump knew he'd lost and there was nothing to his Big Lie claims.
"He continued to lie, and he went in search of anyone that would go along with his scheme."
Thompson promises that, when the committee's public hearings resume in July, they'll show Trump's resort to violence after the lawsuits and attempt to weaponize the DOJ failed.
And we are adjourned.
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