ATLANTA — A federal judge on Monday heard diametrically opposed arguments as to whether Jeffrey Clark was acting within the scope of his official duties as an assistant U.S. Attorney General when he raised concerns about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Clark is mounting the second major challenge to the Fulton County election interference racketeering case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others. At the close of the three-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said he will issue an order as soon as possible.
Jones, who asked pointed questions to Clark’s attorney, recently rejected former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ attempt to transfer the case from Fulton Superior Court to U.S. District Court in Atlanta where defendants may get a more politically conservative — and, perhaps, sympathetic — jury pool. To succeed, Clark must show he was that he was acting under the color of his office when he committed his alleged crimes.
Unlike Meadows, who took the stand and testified for four hours, Clark did not even attend the hearing.
Fulton prosecutor Donald Wakeford, in his closing argument, made note of Clark’s absence and the lack of evidence submitted by his attorneys. “There is nothing before your honor that would allow federal removal in this case,” the prosecutor said.
Clark’s lead attorney, Harry MacDougald, noted that in late 2020, Clark had a number of high-level meetings at the Justice Department about the election and even had a classified briefing on the matter. This culminated in a contentious Jan. 3, 2021, meeting at the Oval Office with Trump and other top officials as to whether the Justice Department should send a letter to Georgia raising concerns about alleged election fraud.
It’s “simply impossible” for Clark to have done that without acting as a federal official, MacDougald said. He also noted that Trump had sought out Clark’s advise and opinion, which in and of itself “is a complete ratification” he was acting within the scope of his duties.
But without Clark’s testimony or supporting documentation to back it up, there are only “vague allusions the president asked him to do something,” Wakeford said. " ... There has to be some basis in reality.”
Clark stands accused of two counts in the 41-count indictment: racketeering and criminal attempt to commit false statements and writings.
In the weeks following the election, Clark prepared a document that said the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia,” the indictment said. It urged Georgia officials to consider appointing a new slate of presidential electors.
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