President Donald Trump’s White House counsel warned officials against a plan for the Department of Justice to tell states it had concerns about election fraud, describing a draft letter as a ‘murder-suicide pact,’ according to testimony presented by the House January 6 committee on Thursday.
The fifth public hearing of the panel is hearing from former Justice Department officials who were pressured by Trump to help him reverse the 2020 election result.
At its heart, was a plan for Justice officials to tell key states that they had evidence of election fraud.
In video testimony, Richard Donoghue, a top official at the Department of Justice, described a key White House meeting in which a more junior figure, Jeffrey Clark, appealed directly to Trump to be appointed acting attorney general so that he could launch fraud investigations.
The meeting was heated, as official after official said Clark and his plan were dangerous, including White House counsel.
‘And Pat Cipollone weighed in at one point I remember saying, you know, that letter that this guy wants to send that letter is a murder suicide pact,’ he said.
‘It’s going to damage everyone who touches it and we should have nothing to do with that letter. I don’t ever want to see that letter again.’
Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified before the January 6 committee on Thursday, as it focused on the role of the Department of Justice
Previous hearings have focused on how Trump was told again and again that he had lost the election.
Thursday’s highlighted the turmoil at the Justice Department and how Trump mulled promoting Clark in order to further his own claims of fraud.
It also included video testimony from former Attorney General Bill Barr, defending his decision to launch fraud investigations even though there was little evidence of wrongdoing.
‘Why not just follow the regular course of action and let the investigations occur much later in time after January 6,’ said Rep. Liz Cheney as she introduced his response.
‘I felt the responsible thing to do was to be to be in a position to have a view as to whether or not there was fraud.
‘And frankly, I think the fact that I put myself in the position that I could say that we had looked at this and didn’t think there was fraud was really important to moving things forward.
‘And I sort of shudder to think what the situation would have been if the position of the department was, “We’re not even looking at this until after Biden’s in office.
‘I’m not sure we would have had a transition at all.’
The hearing began after news emerged that Federal agents raided the home of Clark a day earlier.
They arrived at his suburban Virginia home in the early morning, according to several reports.
An ally, Russ Vought, who headed the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump White House, said Clark had to stand in the street in his pyjamas.
‘The new era of criminalizing politics is worsening in the US,’ tweeted Vought.
‘Yesterday more than a dozen DOJ law enforcement officials searched Jeff Clark’s house in a pre-dawn raid, put him in the streets in his PJs, and took his electronic devices.’
Attorneys for Clark did not respond to requests for comment.
The Justice Department appears to be escalating its probe of pro-Trump efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.