ERIC TUCKER, LISA MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former top Justice Department officials have testified to the Jan. 6 committee that President Donald Trump hounded the department to pursue his false election fraud claims.

They say he contacted the agency's leader "virtually every day" and strove in vain to enlist the government's top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power.

The House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol heard testimony Thursday that Trump was fixated on fake voter fraud claims and insisted the officials pursue them despite being repeatedly told that none had any merit.

The committee also used this hearing to show how Trump's pressure on the Justice Department could have led to a "constitutional crisis" after the 2020 election.

The then-president wanted to install new leadership at the department to pursue his false claims of voter fraud and stop the certification of Joe Biden's victory.

It's the latest account of how perilously close the United States came to a constitutional crisis if the department leaders had not threatened to resign and the defeated incumbent was able to orchestrate a plan for the U.S. government to overturn election results in several pivotal states.