Jan. 6 committee holds fifth hearing

By Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:20 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022
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4:32 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Cheney highlights role of lawyer Ken Klukowski in assisting Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

According to the House select committee, a lawyer named Ken Klukowski joined the Justice Department in mid-December 2020 and helped draft a letter urging Georgia state officials to take actions that would undermine the results of the election in the state as well as pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election. 

Klukowski joined the Department of Justice “on Dec. 15 with only 36 days left until inauguration,” Vice Chair Liz Cheney said Thursday. “He was specifically assigned to work under Jeffrey Clark.” 

According to Cheney, Klukowski helped draft a letter to Georgia state officials with Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, repeating false claims of election fraud and asking the officials to convene a special session and consider approving a new slate of electors for the state. 

Klukowski also worked with conservative lawyer John Eastman, who helmed the false theory that Pence could overturn the 2020 election results and was recommended in a December 2020 email to meet with Pence and his staff, Cheney said.

“This email suggests that Mr. Klukowski was simultaneously working with Jeffrey Clark to draft the proposed letter to Georgia officials to overturn their certified election,” Cheney said, “and working with Dr. Eastman to help pressure the vice president to overturn the election.”

4:34 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Steven Engel is now answering questions. Here's what to know about him.

From CNN's Evan Perez and Ryan Nobles

Steven Engel, former assistant general for the office of legal counsel, testifies during Thursday's hearing.
Steven Engel, former assistant general for the office of legal counsel, testifies during Thursday's hearing. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel, is testifying before the Jan. 6 House select committee.

The committee is focusing on former President Trump's effort to pressure the Justice Department to challenge the election result.

Engel was a key witness at a pivotal meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, at the White House where Trump held a reality TV-show style contest over whether to fire acting attorney general Jeffery Rosen and install someone more amenable to run the Justice Department to support his election fraud claims. Rosen replaced former Attorney General William Barr.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in an earlier investigation, found Engel told Trump at the meeting that he and other top officials would resign if he fired Rosen.

Some context: In a series of emails released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, Richard Donoghue, the former deputy attorney general, told Engel that he wanted to meet with him "about some antics that could potentially end up on your radar," signaling there was at least some concern that the Office of Legal Counsel would have to weigh in on potential issues.

The emails also included correspondence with Jeffery Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who tried to convince Trump to remove Rosen and use the DOJ to undo Georgia's election results, which The New York Times reported in January. In the Jan. 1 email, Meadows asked Rosen to have Clark look into the alleged signature issues in Georgia, ahead of a meeting on Jan. 3 in which Trump heard directly from Clark and Rosen before ultimately choosing not to remove Rosen.

4:22 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

The hearing has resumed

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol is back after taking a short break. 

4:28 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Thompson says Jan. 6 committee hasn't decided how far to go to get Rep. Scott Perry's testimony

From CNN's Manu Raju

During the break, Rep. Bennie Thompson told CNN that the committee hasn’t decided how far to go to secure the testimony of Rep. Scott Perry, who has so far refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena.

“Well, you know, we've asked him to come. We will make a decision at some point on the next step,” the committee chairman said. Asked if he personally favored holding Perry in contempt, Thompson said, “Well, I would leave it up to the committee.”

Asked if he believed Perry had any criminal exposure, Thompson said, “Well, I think he was reporting — recommending somebody for a job. He recommended somebody that was not qualified. That's up to him.”

4:21 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

The committee just heard testimony from former top DOJ officials. Here are the key moments so far.

Steven Engel, former assistant general for the office of legal counsel, from left, Jeffrey A. Rosen, former acting Attorney General, and Richard Donoghue, former acting Deputy Attorney General, are sworn in to testify as the House select committee on Thursday.
Steven Engel, former assistant general for the office of legal counsel, from left, Jeffrey A. Rosen, former acting Attorney General, and Richard Donoghue, former acting Deputy Attorney General, are sworn in to testify as the House select committee on Thursday. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The Jan. 6 committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol is taking a break.

The committee is focusing on how former President Donald Trump tried to use the Justice Department to bolster his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

So far, the committee heard live testimony from three top officials who led the Justice Department in the final days of the Trump administration. They testified about how the then-President implemented a pressure campaign to give baseless fraud allegations credibility and how Trump considered replacing the acting attorney general with an official more receptive to his false claims.

Here’s who was on the panel:

  • Jeffrey A. Rosen, former acting attorney general
  • Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general
  • Steven Engel, former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel

The committee is also focusing on the role of Jeffrey Clark, a former DOJ lawyer who pushed Trump’s fraud claims inside the Justice Department. Clark himself is not testifying, but the committee is presenting evidence that showed how that push was rejected by Rosen and Donoghue, which led to Trump considering putting Clark in charge of the department.

Here are the key moments so far:

  • Letters pushing election fraud to states: Clark wrote a draft of a letter that was intended to be sent to the Georgia state legislature and other states claiming election fraud and urging states to convene a special session. In addition to Clark's signature, there was also a place for Rosen and Donoghue to sign, according to exhibits shown by the committee. They both refused to sign the letter, according to the committee.
  • Notes on Trump’s fraud claims: Donoghue said he took handwritten notes during a 90-minute conversation with former President Trump after he made a fraud allegation he "had not heard" before. During the meeting, Donoghue said he tried to explain to Trump on “numerous occasions” that there was no evidence of fraud. In the notes, Donoghue wrote that he said the Justice Department can’t and won’t change the outcome of the election. In response to this, he said Trump told him and another top Justice Department official that they should “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
  • Jan. 3, 2021 meeting in the Oval Office: Top Justice Department and White House officials pushed back against Clark during the high-stakes Oval Office meeting where Trump considered installing him as attorney general so he could use the powers of the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election. Donoghue said in a video deposition clip that Clark “is not even competent to serve as the 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.” Trump ultimately backed away from his plan to install Clark as the head of the Justice Department — after Rosen, Donoghue and Engel had threatened to resign in protest.
  • Barr authorized DOJ investigation: Former Attorney General Bill Bar told the House select committee that he authorized the Justice Department to investigate election fraud in 2020 because if he didn’t, he wasn’t “sure we would have a transition at all.” Throughout its hearings, the committee has repeatedly played clips of Barr saying there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Barr publicly stated that DOJ had found no evidence of fraud in December 2020, and resigned as attorney general just a few weeks later. Rosen took over after him.
  • Outside the committee hearing: Federal investigators on Wednesday conducted a search of Clark's home, people briefed on the matter tell CNN. A spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in Washington confirmed that "there was law enforcement activity in the vicinity" of Clark's home but declined to comment on any particular person or activity. Clark had met with the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 back in February, but pleaded the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times during his nearly two hours-long depositions.
4:09 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

The committee is taking a short break

The Jan. 6 committee is taking a short break. 

4:43 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Giuliani said DOJ head shouldn't be "frightened of what's going to be done to their reputation" in video

Former President Trump's attorney Rudy Guliani is shown in a pre-recorded video on Thursday during the hearing.
Former President Trump's attorney Rudy Guliani is shown in a pre-recorded video on Thursday during the hearing. (House Recording Studio)

While Rep. Adam Kinzinger was questioning former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, the Jan. 6 House select committee showed video of a deposition with former President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani discussing the type of individual they were looking for to head the Justice Department.

In the video, Giuliani was asked:

"Do you remember recommending to anybody that Mr. Clark — meaning Jeffrey Clark at DOJ — be given election-related responsibilities?" 
He answered: "Beyond the president, I do recall saying to people that somebody should be put in charge of the Justice Department who isn't frightened of what's going to be done to their reputation. Because Justice was filled with people like that."

In the hearing, Kinzinger asked Donoghue: "When you told the president that you wouldn't pursue baseless claims of fraud, was it because you were worried about your reputation?"  

"No, not at all," he answered.

4:10 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Rep. Scott Perry pushed for Jeffrey Clark to take over DOJ

From CNN's Zachary Cohen

US Rep. Scott Perry pushed for then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark to take over the department during meetings at the White House in late December 2020 and early January 2021, according to taped testimony by a former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows played during Thursday’s House Jan. 6 committee hearing. 

“He wanted Mr. Clark – Mr. Jeff Clark to take over the Department of Justice,” Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Meadows aide, says about Perry in the clip. 

Hutchinson’s testimony underscores how Perry acted as a conduit between Clark and former President Donald Trump as he sought to enlist the Justice Department in his bid to overturn the 2020 election. 

In an April court filing, the committee released text messages between Meadows and Perry showing that a plan was taking shape to overhaul DOJ leadership. 

CNN has also previously reported on Perry’s role in efforts to install Clark as attorney general – which Trump nearly did in the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021. 

5:32 p.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Trump to DOJ: "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me"

From CNN's Marshall Cohen 

Former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue testified Thursday that, during the presidential transition, Donald Trump told him and another top Justice Department official that they should “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.” 

Last summer, CNN reported about Trump’s comments. They surfaced during a previous congressional inquiry into the former president's dealings with the Justice Department during the final months of his presidency. Donoghue cooperated with that investigation and provided a copy of his handwritten notes, which captured Trump’s comments. 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, said during Thursday's hearing that the comment demonstrated how Trump was trying to abuse and weaponize the Justice Department to cling onto power, after losing the 2020 election. 

“The President wanted the top Justice Department officials to declare that the election was corrupt, even though, as he knew, there was absolutely no evidence to support that statement,” Kinzinger said.