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6 takeaways from the fifth Jan. 6 select committee hearing

The focus of the fifth Jan. 6 House select committee hearing presented findings about President Trump's attempts to involve the Justice Department in plans to help him overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the official in the department who sought to help him, Jeffrey Clark.

Here are some of the highlights and new revelations:

Who's Jeffrey Clark and how did Trump meet him?

  • Clark was assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division from 2018 to 2021. 
  • He had never tried a criminal case or conducted a criminal investigation when he plotted with Trump to oust the acting attorney general and take the job as the nation's top law enforcement official, according to top former Justice Department officials.
  • Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen only became aware Trump was acquainted with Clark on Dec. 24, 2020, when Trump made a "peculiar" reference to Clark during a discussion about election fraud. Rosen recalled being puzzled by the mention of Clark because the environmental division wasn't involved in investigating voter fraud.
  • GOP Rep. Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania, introduced Clark to Trump, bringing him to a White House meeting on Dec. 22, the select committee discovered.
  • On Thursday morning, law enforcement authorities searched Clark's home.

What the witnesses said about Jeffrey Clark

Clark pushed the idea of sending a Justice Department letter urging state legislators in Georgia to delay the election certification, citing suspected voter fraud. Former White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee in recorded testimony, "Clark's proposal was nuts. I mean this is a guy ... best I can tell, the only thing you know about environmental and elections challenges is they both start with 'E.'"

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he told Clark why he was "not even competent" to be attorney general: "He's never been a criminal attorney, he's never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He's never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury." 

Donogue recalled Clark's retort: "'Well, I've done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation....' And I said, 'That's right. You're an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we'll call you when there's an oil spill." 

Trump's efforts to install Clark as attorney general 

Making Clark attorney general would have empowered him to use the authority of the Justice Department to try to undo the election results. 

White House call logs dated Jan. 3, 2021, show the White House was already referring to Clark as acting attorney general, but Clark's promotion wasn't sealed. The assistant attorneys general threatened to resign en masse if Trump promoted Clark, as he had indicated he would. "All without hesitation said they would resign," Donoghue said Thursday. 

Engel told Trump that if he installed Clark, "the story is not going to be that the Justice Department has found massive corruption that would've changed the results of the election — it's going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark." 

Sidney Powell says that Trump asked her to be special counsel to probe election

Powell, the former pro-Trump lawyer who fought to overturn election results in several states, told the committee in recorded testimony that Trump "had asked me to be a special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence." The New York Times first reported Trump considered this idea, but this was the first time Powell openly acknowledged it.

The Trump campaign distanced itself from her after Powell falsely claimed millions of votes had been switched from Trump to Biden. She also promoted the conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems was founded to help Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Multiple Republican congressmen asked for pardons 

White House officials told the committee in recorded testimony that multiple Republican House members asked the White House for presidential pardons: Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Perry, according to former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. 

Five days after the Capitol riots, Brooks emailed a White House aide to suggest blanket pardons for "every congressman and senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania." 

After the hearing, Brooks shared the email he had sent with CBS News and said by text, "There was a concern Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans who acted pursuant to their Constitutional or statutory duties under 3 USC 15. Fortunately, with time passage, more rational forces took over and no one was persecuted for performing their lawful duties, which means a pardon was unnecessary after all."

Committee has not yet spoken to Ginni Thomas

Jan. 6 committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said after the hearing that the select committee hasn't yet spoken to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Initially the committee said it didn't plan to speak to her, but newly revealed emails show she corresponded with Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman. She has responded to a letter from the committee, "and we look forward to continued engagement with her," Thompson said earlier this week."

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