Criminal contempt vote set for ex-Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark
Jeff Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, September 14, 2020.
Susan Walsh | AFP | Getty Images
The panel of lawmakers investigating the deadly Capitol riot said Monday they will meet this week to vote on whether the House should hold former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark in contempt of Congress and issue a criminal referral for his prosecution.
Clark is the second Donald Trump associate to face contempt proceedings stemming from the House select committee probe of Jan. 6, when hundreds of the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol and forced Congress to flee their chambers.
The select committee in October voted to recommend Steve Bannon, former senior White House advisor to Trump, for contempt over his refusal to comply with its subpoena for documents and testimony. Bannon’s attorney justified that noncompliance by pointing to Trump’s claims that parts of the subpoena were protected by executive privilege.
The full House then voted to hold Bannon in contempt and send a referral to federal prosecutors. A federal grand jury indicted Bannon in mid-November on two counts of contempt of Congress. He has pleaded not guilty.
The select committee had accused Clark, the former acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s civil division, of refusing to answer questions about Trump’s efforts to use the law enforcement agency to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
The committee, heavily citing a Senate Judiciary Committee report, said it has uncovered “credible evidence” that Clark tried to involve the DOJ “in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”
After losing to Biden, Trump spent months falsely claiming he won the election and spreading an array of baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Trump’s campaign and other allies filed dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits aiming to overturn Biden’s state victories.
In December 2020, Clark had proposed that the DOJ send letters to multiple swing states that Biden won, urging them to consider replacing their slates of presidential electors on the basis of “sworn evidence of election irregularities,” the Senate report shows.
The draft letters suggested that the legislatures of those states convene in special sessions to “take whatever action is necessary” if the “election failed to make a proper and valid choice,” according to the Senate report.
After Clark allegedly refused to cooperate with the select committee’s deposition, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., issued a blistering statement calling it “astounding” that Clark would “hide behind vague claims of privilege” by Trump and “continue an assault on the rule of law.”
Just as it did for Bannon, the committee in a press release said it will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on Capitol Hill for a “business meeting” to vote on a contempt report for Clark.
That report will include language recommending that the House cite Clark “for criminal contempt of Congress” and refer him to the office of the U.S. attorney for Washington for prosecution.
The committee has issued dozens of subpoenas to Trump’s current and former associates, including his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The panel has threatened to advance criminal contempt proceedings for Meadows, who has refused to comply with his subpoena.
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