Jan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released on Tuesday its contempt report against Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, laying out his lack of cooperation with the panel as it prepares for a Wednesday vote to censure him.
If forwarded by the committee, Clark faces a full House vote to refer him to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution for contempt of Congress.
Clark, a midlevel attorney at the DOJ who primarily worked on environmental issues, became a central figure in former President Trump’s pressure campaign at the DOJ, suggesting the department forward a letter to several states encouraging them to delay certification of their election results.
Trump even mulled installing Clark as acting attorney general as other DOJ officials refused to act on his claims of election fraud, a move that left the department’s top officials threatening to resign.
The report contains numerous back-and-forth exchanges between Clark’s attorney and the committee throughout the month of November after the former DOJ official was deemed to be largely uncooperative during a brief appearance before the committee. That includes a final letter from Clark’s attorney on Monday.
It also includes a copy of the previously undisclosed full subpoena to Clark, outlining an interest in 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.”
The subpoena continued another line of inquiry by asking Clark about any plans to seize Dominion voting equipment.
It also asks for a wide range of Clark’s communications, including any discussions with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a central figure in several of Trump’s election efforts who has also been subpoenaed by the committee. It also inquires about conversations with Rep. Scott Perry (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 Trump’s alleged ability to challenge the election through state electors and by having former Vice President Mike Pence buck his ceremonial duty to certify the election results.
The Wednesday vote would be the second time the panel has pushed for serious consequences for those who defy the committee. The Justice Department has since acted on a similar earlier referral for onetime White House strategist Stephen Bannon, who is now facing up to two years in jail and a $200,000 fine for two counts of contempt of Congress.
Unlike Bannon, Clark did show up for his scheduled Nov. 5 deposition, but Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he largely “raised some objections” and then failed to show for a second meeting that afternoon.
Around that time, Clark’s lawyer sent a letter to the committee presenting a complicated argument to suggest that Clark should be covered by earlier claims of executive privilege from Trump.
The transcript of the brief meeting shows lawmakers and committee staff arguing with Clark and his attorney Harry MacDougald over the claims in the letter.
The letter portrays Clark as a regular legal adviser to Trump — something that would be unusual for someone leading the DOJ’s civil litigation division — saying it would be “natural for a president to seek out and consult his views.”
It also cites an Aug. 2 letter from Trump’s then-attorney former Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) essentially advising former DOJ employees that Trump would not seek to block them from testifying with the committee. Some, including former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, already have testified.
But Clark’s lawyer suggested Trump may change his mind if the panel seeks privileged information from other officials.
Trump later sought to bar four former aides from cooperating with the committee, arguing it would violate his executive privilege — a claim the committee has flatly rejected.
And while the letter to the four aides subpoenaed by the committee is silent on Clark, his attorney claims the letter “applied with special force to Mr. Clark.”
The transcript shows Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) questioning this point with MacDougald.
“You are aware that President Trump has not sought judicial intervention to prevent Mr. Clark’s testimony?” he said at one point during the exchange. “People in a superior position to Mr. Clark’s who were at the Justice Department and were his superiors at the time of the events of interest to the committee have testified.”
The exchange over the letter continued for several more weeks, with the committee saying Clark has no right to make a blanket claim of executive privilege.
The report also includes a July 26 letter from the Department of Justice encouraging Clark to cooperate with congressional investigators from other committees.
“The extraordinary events in this manner constitute exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress in this case,” the department wrote in a letter signed by the associate deputy attorney general.
“It is the executive branch’s view that this presents an exceptional situation in which the congressional need for information outweighs the executive branch interest in maintaining confidentiality,” it added.
If the committee votes to censure Clark, the full House is expected to vote on the referral quickly, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) saying Tuesday that “we will act this week.”