National Security

Jan. 6 panel plans vote to censure Trump DOJ official Clark

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will vote Wednesday night on whether to censure Jeffrey Clark, a move that would tee up a full House vote on whether to refer the former Justice Department official for prosecution by the very agency where he used to work.

Clark was a mid-level attorney at the Justice Department during the Trump administration, but he became a central figure in a pressure campaign by former President Trump to involve the agency in investigating his baseless claims of voter fraud.

The Jan. 6 committee sought to speak to Clark about that effort, including his suggestion that the Justice Department send letters to several states encouraging them to delay certification of their election results.

The vote comes after Clark only briefly appeared for a deposition with the committee earlier this month.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the select committee's chairman, said that although Clark and his attorney "raised some objections" at a morning meeting, they were supposed to reappear before the committee later that day but never showed. 

Clark's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday's vote comes as the Justice Department has shown it will take such referrals seriously.

After the House voted in October to censure one-time White House strategist Steve Bannon after he flouted a subpoena, DOJ filed two counts of contempt of Congress, a crime that carries penalties as high as two years in jail and $200,000 in fines between the two charges. 

Clark was also a key figure in a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Trump's efforts at DOJ during his waning days in office, with the attorney 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 to Clark.

Trump even weighed installing Clark as acting attorney general after other DOJ officials resisted White House efforts on the election front.

Clark's attorney has previously sought to claim that the former DOJ lawyer, who for most of his career with the agency worked on environmental issues, should not have to respond to the committee due to executive privilege concerns.

Committee attorneys have already pushed back on the idea that Trump has the power as a former president to block the committee from accessing his records. The courts will continue to weigh the issue in a case that holds its next hearing on Tuesday. 

But even if Trump did have the power to make such executive privilege claims, he has not sought to assert them for Clark, with Trump's attorney penning a letter to several former DOJ attorney's alerting them he would not seek to interfere with their desire to talk to the committee. 

Two figures who threatened to resign after Clark informed them Trump was planning to install him as attorney general have already reportedly sat down with committee investigators - former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue.

The Wednesday vote on Clark has been scheduled as the Jan. 6 committee has failed to decide how to respond to similar behavior from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Meadows was said to be "engaging" with the committee for over a month following his September subpoena. But the committee's patience ended with a demand for a Nov. 12 deposition for which the Trump ally failed to show.

Meadows has gone to the airwaves to complain the subpoena has put him "between a rock and a hard space" as Trump specifically directed him, Bannon, and others not to comply.

"These are complex legal matters that I'm going to let the attorneys hopefully work out in a spirit of accommodation," Meadows told Fox News earlier this month.

Updated at 2:56 p.m.

 

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