The House committee investigating the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill voted unanimously Wednesday night to propose a measure to fire former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to his former employer for criminal contempt of Congress, but also gives him one last chance to testify.
Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Said Wednesday evening that Clark’s attorney informed him Tuesday evening that his client “now intends to claim Fifth Amendment protection” from the car. -incrimination.
“This is, in my opinion, a final attempt to delay the work of the select committee. However, an assertion of Fifth Amendment privilege is important,” said Thompson.
“I have informed Mr. Clark’s attorney that I am prepared to call another deposition in which Mr. Clark can assert this privilege question by question, which is required by law of someone claiming the privilege. not to incriminate himself. Mr. Clark agreed to do so. “
Despite the development, the bipartisan committee voted to fire Clark for contempt, which Thompson suggested not to proceed if Clark cooperates, noting that the committee’s action is “only the first step in the contempt process.”
“We want the facts, and we need witnesses to cooperate with their legal obligation and provide us with information on what led to the January 6 attack,” Thompson said.
Vice-chair of the panel, Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Said the committee “will not finalize this contempt process if Mr. Clark genuinely remedies his failure to comply with the summons on Saturday.” .
Clark, who as acting head of the Justice Department’s civilian division played a key role in then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, angered Thompson on last month when he refused to testify or hand over documents.
Thompson at the time called Clark’s lack of cooperation “unacceptable” and said the House committee needed “the information they are withholding and that we are prepared to take strong action to hold them accountable. to fulfill its obligations “.
In a letter to Clark in October, Thompson said the panel’s investigation “revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to halt the peaceful transfer of power.”
NBC News reported in January that Trump had considered replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, who was prepared to help Trump assert his allegations of widespread electoral fraud in a bid to quash the elections. election results.
A nearly 400-page report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October found that Clark pressured Rosen and his senior deputy in late December “to publicly announce that the Department of Justice was investigating electoral fraud and to tell the main legislatures States that they should appoint lists of substitute voters. after the certification of the popular vote. He did so as a result of personal communications with Trump, including at least one meeting that Clark attended in the Oval Office without the knowledge of DOJ leadership. “
Clark later told Rosen that if he didn’t want Trump to want him, Trump would fire Rosen and put Clark in his job, according to the report. Rosen refused to back down and Trump’s efforts were hampered after DOJ leadership warned of massive resignations if Trump followed the plan, according to the Senate report.
In January, Clark told the New York Times, which first reported on Trump’s efforts to the DOJ, that “there had been a frank discussion about the options and the pros and cons with the president. It is unfortunate that those who participated in a privileged legal conversation would comment in public on such internal deliberations, while distorting the discussions. “
If the panel decides to finalize the referral, the measure would head to the House floor, where lawmakers would vote on whether to send the criminal referral to the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to consider the resolution recommending that the House despise Clark. Committee approval is a necessary step before the measure can be adopted.
The January 6 panel recommendation for criminal contempt is the second to date.
The bipartisan House committee recommended that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon be fired for criminal charges in October after refusing to appear for testimony or hand over documents, citing executive privilege.
The House then approved the measure and Bannon was charged with two contempt charges by the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC. He pleaded not guilty.
Unlike Bannon, Clark appeared on Capitol Hill for scheduled testimony, but declined to answer all questions, citing executive and other privileges.
“As the select committee repeatedly pointed out to Mr. Clark, his claims of executive privilege are completely unfounded, but even if a certain privilege applied to certain aspects of Mr. Clark, he was required to assert any question-by-question testimony privilege and produce a privilege log setting out the specific privilege claims for each document withheld. Mr. Clark did neither, ” the committee said in a report released Tuesday recommending that he be found in contempt.
Thompson said last month that the panel is also considering a referral against Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who failed to appear for his scheduled Nov. 12 deposition. But on Tuesday, Thompson said Meadows “engaged with the select committee through his lawyer.”
“He has produced records for the committee and will appear soon for an initial deposition,” said the chairman of the committee, warning that the committee panel “will continue to assess its degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.”