Donald Trump pressured officials to ‘say election was corrupt’ in letter dubbed ‘murder-suicide pact’
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The former president wanted the US Justice Department to help ‘legitimise his lies’, according to evidence presented to the January 6 congressional committee.
At least five of Donald Trump’s allies sought White House pardons after supporting his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, witnesses have said.
The names of the five were given to the US House investigation into the rioting at the Capitol on 6 January, 2021.
The fifth day of hearings focused on how the then-president put pressure on officials at the Department of Justice (DoJ) as he tried to hold on to power.
According to witnesses, Mr Trump told the officials to “say the 2020 election was corrupt” and added: “Leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
When his demands were rebuffed, he is said to have threatened to install loyalist Jeffrey Clark as head of the DoJ.
“Donald Trump didn’t just want the Justice Department to investigate,” chairman Bennie Thompson, the Democrat congressman for Mississippi, told the hearing.
“He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimise his lies; to baselessly call the election corrupt; to appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud; to send a letter to six state legislatures urging them to consider altering the election results.”
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The installation of Mr Clark was only headed off when most of the rest of Justice Department leaders threatened to resign en masse if Mr Trump went ahead.
The demands were put in a draft letter, said to have been co-written by Mr Clark, suggesting the DOJ had found irregularities that could have affected the outcome of the election. Mr Trump wanted it sent to all states that were pivotal in his defeat, but it never went out.
Former President Donald during a rally to contest the US election results on January 6, 2021
The letter was branded a “murder-suicide pact” by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, according to pre-recorded testimony from Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, adding that “it’s going to damage everyone who touches it”.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican committee member, told the hearing: “The president didn’t care about actually investigating the facts.
“He just wanted the Department of Justice to put its stamp of approval on the lies.”
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Mr Trump’s interactions with DoJ officials represent one piece of an emerging historical record that committee members say proves he orchestrated an illegal multi-pronged campaign to invalidate his defeat.
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The interactions include Mr Trump summoning then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen for a “tense” Oval Office meeting on 3 January, 2021, together with Clark and White House lawyers.
That was three days before the official electoral vote count in Congress.
Mr Trump never acted upon the requests for pardons, the hearing was told.