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Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark subpoenaed in Capitol riot probe

Billy House, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed a former Justice Department official described as being at the center of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

The subpoena issued Wednesday to Jeffrey Clark potentially sets up yet another legal showdown with the former president. A lawyer for Trump has instructed other former aides to not cooperate with the committee or comply with its subpoenas.

The panel’s latest subpoena also came as the White House reiterated that it wouldn’t support Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over a tranche of records related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and ordered the National Archives to turn over documents to congressional investigators within 30 days.

Trump had nominated Clark in 2017 to serve as the assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. During the last months of the Trump administration, Clark became the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

The committee is interested in Clark’s activities on behalf of Trump after his defeat by Joe Biden on Nov. 3. The subpoena to Clark instructs him to produce records and give a deposition on Oct. 29.

Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen met privately with the committee Wednesday in a session that lasted several hours, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration.”

Some of Clark’s actions were outlined last week in a Senate Judiciary Committee interim report on Trump’s “relentless, direct pressure on the Justice Department.”

The Senate report pointed out that Clark never agreed during its investigation to be interviewed. Now, the Jan. 6 committee is seeking to compel his testimony.

 

The Senate report, cited in Thompson’s subpoena letter to Clark, describes him as pushing an effort for the Justice Department to pressure and warn Georgia officials and potentially others that the department had “taken notice” of election irregularities in their states. Those actions included his circulating a draft letter Dec. 28 to be sent to Georgia to recommend calling a special legislative session to evaluate these irregularities, determine who “won the most legal votes,” and consider appointing a new slate of electors.

The report also said that Clark attempted to induce Rosen to help “Trump’s election subversion scheme.” At one point, the Senate report said, Clark told Rosen he would decline Trump’s offer to install him in Rosen’s place — if Rosen agreed to pursue inquiries into the unsupported allegations of election fraud in states.

Earlier subpoenas have called for four former Trump advisers to sit for depositions on Thursday and Friday. But as of Wednesday, there remained uncertainty over whether any of them would show. Committee members are promising to take whatever legal steps necessary to enforce compliance.

One of the four, Steve Bannon, who served as the former president’s chief political strategist and helped run his 2016 campaign, is refusing to cooperate with the House panel. His lawyer, Robert Costello, has written that the refusal comes at Trump’s request. Bannon had been ousted from a White House position in 2017 but stayed in touch with Trump.

The other Trump advisers scheduled for depositions are former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel.

Meadows and Patel have at least been “engaging” with the committee, say panel officials who have not amplified what that means. Any Scavino contact with the committee has not been described.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the top Republican on the panel, was among committee members underscoring that whatever steps are necessary will be taken to enforce compliance by subpoenaed witnesses.

“In general people are going to appear or, you know, we will move contempt charges against them,” Cheney said Tuesday.

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