The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol painted a vivid picture on Thursday of how former President Donald J. Trump directed a wide-ranging bid to strong-arm the Justice Department into overturning the 2020 election, the most brazen attempt by a sitting president since Watergate to manipulate the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to keep himself in power.
In a stunning display of evidence, including testimony from top officials who resisted the former president’s efforts, the committee laid out how Mr. Trump tried repeatedly to use the Justice Department to interfere in the election. In near-daily conversations, he badgered its leaders to act on unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, including wild internet hoaxes, accusing them of failing to do their jobs. He explored naming a conspiracy theorist who was circulating outlandish stories of voting irregularities to serve as a special counsel to look into possible election misdeeds.
“Why don’t you guys just seize machines?” Mr. Trump demanded to know at one point, later calling a top official at the Homeland Security Department when informed that voting machines fell under that agency’s purview, not the Justice Department’s.
When top Justice Department officials repeatedly told him that they had investigated and debunked his allegations of widespread election fraud, Mr. Trump said they need not find evidence. “Just say the election is corrupt and leave the rest to me,” he told them.
And when the officials refused to comply, Mr. Trump embraced a plan to remove the acting attorney general and install a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, to do his bidding. During a heated showdown in the Oval Office, only the threat of a mass resignation at the department persuaded Mr. Trump to back down.Image