Jun 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ leadership told Trump they'd all resign over Jeffrey Clark

Photo of Steve Engel and Jeff Rosen sitting at a table at a crowded committee hearing
Steven Engel (left), former assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, testifies alongside Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general, during the Jan. 6 select committee's fifth hearing on June 23, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Former senior Justice Department officials testified Thursday that they told former President Trump he'd have mass resignations on hand if he installed former assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark to run the DOJ.

Why it matters: Trump had considered naming Clark to replace then-Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen after Rosen refused to investigate baseless election fraud claims. Clark, an environmental attorney, pushed a plan to overturn the election which former DOJ leaders called "nuts" and a "murder-suicide pact" at the Jan. 6 select committee's fifth hearing.

What they're saying: When Trump asked what then-acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue would do if he appointed Clark, Donoghue testified that he told Trump he would resign immediately.

  • "I'm not working one minute for this guy, who I had just, you know, declared was incompetent."
  • Donoghue said that Trump then turned to Steven Engel, who was serving as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel and asked, "Steve, you wouldn't resign, would you?"
  • "I said, 'Mr. President, I've been with you through four attorneys general, including two acting attorneys general, but I couldn't be part of this," Engel testified.
  • "And then I said, 'We're not the only ones. No one cares if I resign. But you're going to lose every single aide. Your entire department of leadership will walk out within hours,'" Donoghue noted. "Within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds of resignations ... because of your actions."
  • "The other thing I said is, 'Look, all anyone is going to think about when they see this ... is that you went through two attorneys general in two weeks, until you found the environmental guy to sign this thing,'' Engel said.
  • "So the story is not going to be that the Justice Department has found massive corruption that would have changed the result of the election. It's going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark."
  • The threats worked — Trump agreed to leave department leadership in place after the conversation, Donoghue said, though he continued to push false claims around the election in meetings with administration officials.

Worth noting: Clark largely refused to answer questions in a deposition with the special House panel.

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