Senior Justice Department officials Thursday described a heated White House meeting days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, when President Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist as acting attorney general.
‘Early on, the president said: “What do I have to lose?”‘ according to Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general.
He was one of three former Department of Justice officials who appeared before the House committee investigating the January 6 violence.
They presented evidence of how Trump tried to use the department to pressure key wing states into re-examining Joe Biden’s victory.
At its heart was a plan to install Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer and Trump loyalist, as the head of the department.
The matter was discussed during a tense January 3 meeting in the Oval Office, when the president asked what he had to lose.
‘And it was actually a good opening because I said, Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose,’ said Donoghue.
‘And I began to explain to him 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.’
He was one of three Trump-era Justice Department officials who described a relentless pressure campaign by the president, who directed them to investigate claims of voter fraud.
Donoghue said Clark was simply ‘incompetent.’
‘And it was a heated conversation,’ he said. 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’s never conducted a criminal investigation.
‘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 and 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.’
In a further twist, it emerged earlier in the day that Clark’s suburban Virginia home had been raided by federal investigators on Wednesday.