National Security

Three key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has subpoenaed a number of bold-faced names close to former President Trump as they seek to unravel planning and coordination leading up to the riot.

Some of former President Trump's closest confidants have been tapped for an appearance by the committee, including his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and one-time strategist Stephen Bannon, who now risks criminal charges for his failure to cooperate. 

But some lesser-known individuals could offer key testimony to the investigation, helping to spell out events at the Justice Department, Department of Defense and among right-wing activists ahead of the violence on Jan. 6.

Here's a look at three key figures.

Jeffrey Clark

A little-known Justice Department official, Clark became an advocate for Trump during his final months in office, pushing his election fraud claims to those at the highest levels of the department, leaving the former president to weigh installing him as attorney general.

Clark spent the majority of his career at the Department of Justice (DOJ) working in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, starting at the office under the George W. Bush administration and returning to run it under the Trump administration. During his time there he made headlines for scrapping a program that allowed polluters to offset some of their fines by funding environmental projects.

He was appointed to serve as acting assistant attorney general for the civil division for the last few months of Trump's presidency.

Clark came to DOJ with an impressive resume. A Harvard College graduate who got his law degree from Georgetown University, Clark was a Federalist Society member who worked at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the largest law firms in the country, between his stints in government.

But it's unclear why an attorney primarily tasked with enforcing environmental laws would become a leading advocate for the president within DOJ. In its subpoena, the Jan. 6 panel said Clark's contact with the White House violates department policy. 

Clark won Trump's favor after being introduced to the president by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), another staunch defender of Trump's efforts in the days after he lost the election.

Clark was also a key figure in a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Trump's pressure campaign at DOJ during his waning days in office, forwarding letters then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone described as a "murder-suicide pact."

"You proposed that the department send a letter to state legislators in Georgia and other states suggesting that they delay certification of their election results and hold a press conference announcing that the department was investigating allegations of voter fraud," the House panel wrote in its subpoena. 

As Clark made little headway with top ranking DOJ officials, he informed them that Trump planned to fire then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and appoint Clark in his stead, prompting a slew of Justice officials to threaten to resign and Trump to abandon the plan.

Clark is also facing an ethics complaint from a coalition of attorneys filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel at the D.C. Court of Appeals, an effort that could lead to him being disbarred if they find he engaged in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation."

Following his exit from the Trump administration, Clark worked with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which aims to "protect Americans from the administrative state," but his profile has since been scrubbed from their website. 

The Hill was unable to reach Clark for comment.

Kash Patel

Patel was subpoenaed by the committee after being at the center of Department of Defense (DOD) planning leading up to Jan. 6, and its response on the day of the attack.

A former public defender who worked his way to serving as a national security prosecutor at the Department of Justice under the Obama administration, Patel got his start in politics as a staffer to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), working as an adviser on the House Intelligence Committee.

Patel played a key role there in seeking to discredit the committee's investigation into Trump's ties to Russia. That included authoring a report analyzing FBI and DOJ responses in their own investigations into Russian election interference.

Patel eventually made his way to the White House, serving as senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council.

But by Jan. 6 he was serving as chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who was appointed to the role the day after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

"There is substantial reason to believe that you have additional documents and information relevant to understanding the role played by the Department of Defense and the White House in preparing for and responding to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as documents and information related to your personal involvement in planning for events on Jan. 6 and the peaceful transfer of power," the committee wrote in its subpoena. 

The focus on DOD comes amid questions over why there was such a lengthy delay in approving National Guard assistance as law enforcement officers were being overrun by Trump's supporters.

The letter also alleges Patel was in communication with Meadows "nonstop that day. "

Patel was viewed as a Trump loyalist and was almost installed as then-CIA Director Gina Haspel's deputy until she threatened to resign over the move, according to Axios. He instead remained at DOD, where NBC reported he at times stalled work with the Biden transition team. 

According to a column by David Ignatius in The Washington Post, Patel is also under investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information - something Patel, through a spokesperson, denied.

Patel is currently a senior fellow for national security and intelligence for the Center for Renewing America, which seeks to "renew a consensus of America as a nation under God."

Though he did not appear for his scheduled deposition, the committee has said he is "engaging" with the investigation.

Patel is fundraising for his legal defense, telling potential supporters, "The fake news media tried to destroy my reputation ... now I'm fighting back."

The organization, the Kash Patel Legal Offense Trust, also says it aids "all who have been smeared by the fake news machine."

Ali Alexander 

Alexander, a right-wing provocateur, longtime Republican operative and Stop the Steal organizer is also at the center of the probe.

Alexander is listed on a permit application for the "One Nation Under God" event, which sought to rally on "the election fraud in the swing states."

"Mr. Alexander explained it was the intention of Stop the Steal to direct earlier attendees of a rally on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 held by Women for America First and 'sponsored' by Stop the Steal to march at the conclusion of that rally to Lot 8 on the U.S. Capitol Grounds, which is the location for which the [U.S. Capitol Police] granted the permit for the 'One Nation Under God,' rally," the committee writes in the subpoena.

Alexander is one of the rally planners who has been the most vocal about his alleged coordination with lawmakers, posting livestreams saying he had discussions with Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).

"I was the one that came up with the Jan. 6 idea," he said in a video.

"We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting," he said in a since-deleted post, as part of an effort to have people "hearing our loud roar from outside." 

Brooks and Biggs have denied involvement with Alexander, while Gosar did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Alexander, who was initially named Ali Abdul Akbar, pushed the "birtherism" conspiracy theory that former President Obama was not born in the U.S. He also said Vice President Harris was "not an American Black" - a claim shared, and then deleted, by Trump.

He is connected to a wide range of Republican party figures, from far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to the Koch brothers, even appearing at a White House social media summit.

Alexander was booted from all major social media outlets following the riot, but before his accounts were suspended he shared video from his perch on a nearby rooftop, overlooking the crowds after they had breached the Capitol.

"I don't disavow this. I do not denounce this," he said.

But days later he denied the role his advocacy may have played on Jan. 6.

"I didn't incite anything," he said in a video posted on Twitter.

Multiple messages to Alexander's attorney went unanswered, and the website for the firm has since scrubbed its contact information.

 

 

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