The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted Wednesday night to refer Trump Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark for prosecution by the very agency where he once worked, the second such censure by the panel.
The unanimous vote comes as the committee is now planning to convene a second hearing for Clark this coming Saturday, following a note at 8 p.m. Tuesday from his lawyer asking for a change to plead his fifth amendment right for protection against self incrimination before the committee.
The vote will continue the contempt process, with Chair Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure voteMeadows reaches initial cooperation deal with Jan. 6 committeeThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – The omicron threat and Biden’s plan to beat itMORE (D-Miss.) calling the move a last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committees proceedings noting that the committee would still forward the matter for consideration by the full House, while the Saturday meeting will allow Clark the plead the fifth on the question-by-question basis.
Clark, a mid-level attorney at DOJ, became a central figure in former President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threatsOn The Money Powell pivots as inflation risesTrump cheers CNN’s Cuomo suspensionMOREs quest to have the Justice Department investigate his baseless claims of voter fraud, with Clark pushing superiors to send a letter encouraging states to delay certification of their election results. Trump weighed installing him as acting attorney general as other DOJ officials resisted his efforts.
In a contempt of Congress report released Tuesday, the committee released a transcript of its brief Nov. 5 deposition with Clark who, alongside his attorney, largely refused to answer the committees questions.
They have argued that the DOJ official should be exempt from responding due to executive privilege concerns an assertion former President Trump himself has not made in regards to Clark.
But the committee said Clarks behavior is willful defiance of its subpoena, which sought information on a wide range of topics, including other ways Trump may have planned to overturn the election.
If you want to know what contempt of Congress really looks like, read the transcript of Mr. Clarks deposition and his attorneys correspondence with the Select Committee. Because what you find there is contempt for Congress and for the American people. Faced with specific questions, he refused to offer any specific claim of privilege that could shield him from answering. Instead, he hid. Again and again and again. Behind his attorneys 12-page letter and vague claims of privilege. Then he said, and Im quoting, I think that were done. And he walked out, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Wednesday evening.
In forwarding its contempt of Congress report, the matter will now go to the full House, who will weigh whether to formally recommend DOJ file charges for criminal contempt of Congress.
The move is hardly an empty gesture DOJ is currently pursuing a case against one-time White House strategist Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure voteMeadows reaches initial cooperation deal with Jan. 6 committeeJan. 6 panel plans vote to censure Trump DOJ official ClarkMORE, who now faces two charges for failing to provide documents or sit to testify, together carrying as much as two years of jail time and up to $200,000 in fines.
While unlike Bannon, Clark did make a physical appearance before the committee, Wednesdays vote could serve as a warning shot to future witnesses who may attempt to thread the needle by showing up for the deposition only to fail to answer questions.
At the deposition, Clarks lawyer Harry MacDougald handed investigators a 12-page letter presenting a complicated argument to suggest that Clark should be covered by earlier claims of executive privilege from Trump.
It also suggests his conversations with Trump should be covered by attorney-client privilege, portraying Clark as a regular legal adviser to Trump something that would be unusual for someone who primarily worked on environmental issues during his time at DOJ.
The committee has flatly rejected the idea that Trump has the power to limit compliance with Congressional subpoenas, saying only the sitting president can wield executive power.
But even Trumps attorney at the time notified Clark and other DOJ officials in August that they should feel free to speak with the committee.
The report also includes a July 26 letter from the Department of Justice encouraging Clark to cooperate with congressional investigators from other committees, highlighting exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress in this case.
Clark and his lawyer refused to give the committee an hour to review the letter, leaving their meeting with investigators at 11:30 that morning. They also failed to return for a 4 p.m. meeting, which the committee asked for shortly after 12:30. MacDougald responded a few hours later to say he was already flying back to his office in Atlanta.
Clark also refused to sit with investigators from the Senate Judiciary Committee report that offered the most detailed picture yet of how top DOJ officials, including acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy Richard Donohue, threatened to resigned as Clark relayed Trumps plans to install him amid his push to unwind the election results.
But the full subpoena to Clark, released for the first time in the contempt report, details the extent that the Jan. 6 committee planned to follow up on the Senate panels work.
It asks whether Trump weighed “filing documents in the United States Supreme Court regarding allegations of election fraud and/or the certification of the results of the election and whether Clark knew about any plans to seize Dominion voting equipment.
It also asks for a wide range of Clarks communications, including any discussions with former White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure voteRaffensperger talks with Jan. 6 committee about call with Trump: AJCThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Biden favors vaccines, masks over lockdowns as omicron nearsMORE, a central figure in several of Trumps election efforts who has also been subpoenaed by the committee. It also inquires about conversations with Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure voteNewly elected Freedom Caucus chair tests positive for COVID-19House Freedom Caucus elects Rep. Scott Perry as new chairmanMORE (R-Pa.), who introduced Clark to Trump, or any other member of Congress about delaying certification of election results.
Finally, it asked Clark about any communication with John Eastman, another figure subpoenaed by the committee who crafted the memos outlining Trumps alleged ability to challenge the election through state electors and by having former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence-linked group launches 0K ad campaign in West Virginia praising ManchinJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure votePence calls for Roe v. Wade to be sent to ‘ash heap of history’ ahead of abortion ruling MORE buck his ceremonial duty to certify the election results.
The vote to censure Clark comes as Meadows has reached a tentative agreement to cooperate with the committee.
Thompson pointed to Meadowss cooperation as a reason Clark should as well.
Theres nothing extraordinary about Congress seeking the testimony of a former Executive Branch official. Even the former White House Chief of Staff is now cooperating with our investigation.