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Jan. 6 panel sets contempt vote for former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark

Clark appeared for a deposition Nov. 5 but told lawmakers that he would not answer questions based partly on Trump’s legal efforts to block the committee’s investigation.

Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark is under scrutiny for his role in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. In this file photo, Clark is shown next to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen during a news conference to announce the results of the global resolution of criminal and civil investigations with an opioid manufacturer at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Yuri Gripas / Pool via AP

Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark is under scrutiny for his role in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. In this file photo, Clark is shown next to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen during a news conference to announce the results of the global resolution of criminal and civil investigations with an opioid manufacturer at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

(Washington) — A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection will vote Wednesday to pursue contempt charges against a former Justice Department official, seeking criminal charges against a defiant witness for a second time after holding former White House aide Steve Bannon in contempt last month.

The committee on Monday scheduled a vote to pursue contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who aligned with President Donald Trump as he tried to overturn his defeat. Clark appeared for a deposition Nov. 5 but told lawmakers that he would not answer questions based partly on Trump’s legal efforts to block the committee’s investigation.

At the end of last year, midstate Republican Congressman Scott Perry had been talking with Clark, a low-level Justice Department lawyer,  about strategies to elevate former President Donald Trump’s false assertions that the 2020 election had been stolen from him.

A Senate Judiciary Committee report shows Perry directly passed Clark’s name on to acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue in a conversation on Dec. 27, encouraging the deputy attorney general to rely on Clark as “someone who could really get in there and do something about [election fraud claims].” Perry also repeated Trump’s suggestion that the department “wasn’t doing its job with respect to elections,” despite long-standing agency policy that barred it from engaging in political activity.

Clark would later go on to draft a letter pressuring Georgia election officials to decertify the state’s result, claiming “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome.” The report shows Clark had also drafted versions of the letter to send to other swing states, including Pennsylvania.

The contempt vote will come as the panel is also considering contempt charges against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s top aide the day that hundreds of his supporters violently attacked the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. Meadows was subpoenaed in September but has not yet sat for an interview with the committee.

The panel has vowed to aggressively seek charges against any witness who doesn’t comply as they investigate the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, and the Justice Department has signaled it is willing to pursue those charges, indicting Bannon earlier this month on two federal counts of criminal contempt. Attorney General Merrick Garland said then that Bannon’s indictment reflects the department’s “steadfast commitment” to the rule of law.

Still, Clark’s case may be more difficult since he appeared for the deposition and, unlike Bannon, was a Trump administration official on Jan. 6. Trump has sued to block the committee’s work and has attempted to assert executive privilege over documents and interviews, arguing that his conversations and actions at the time should be shielded from public view.

A report issued by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee detailed how Clark championed Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and clashed as a result with Justice Department superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a dramatic White House meeting at which Trump ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general. He did not do so after several aides threatened to resign.

 

WITF Staff contributed to this report.

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