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January 6 panel calls for contempt charge against Jeffrey Clark


WASHINGTON – The House committee investigating the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill proposed Wednesday to detain Jeffrey Clark on criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with his investigation, but agreed to delay a House vote on the question when the former lawyer for the Department of Justice made an Offer at the 11th hour to be interviewed again.

The panel voted unanimously to recommend indicting Mr. Clark, who had urged his colleagues at the Justice Department to pursue President Donald J. Trump’s election fraud allegations, after refusing to answer questions or to produce documents during a deposition with his investigators last month. .

The vote allowed the entire House to act quickly to ask the Justice Department to prosecute Mr Clark for his refusal to cooperate with the panel summons. But shortly before the committee met to approve it, Mr Clark had requested a postponement of the proceedings, offering to sit down with the panel again.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee, said he would go ahead with the contempt referral anyway, calling Mr Clark’s appeal “the last attempt at delay.”

“The select committee has no desire to be placed in this situation, but Mr. Clark left us no other choice,” added Mr. Thompson. “He chose this path. He knew what consequences he might suffer if he did. This committee and this House must insist on responsibility in the face of this kind of challenge. “

But he announced that the panel had scheduled another deposition for Mr Clark on Saturday and that he would not call for a House vote on the contempt charge until investigators determined if he was ready. to cooperate.

It was not immediately clear to what extent Mr. Clark intended to do so. In a letter to the panel on Tuesday, he offered a new rationale for his refusal to answer questions, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Mr. Thompson stated that Mr. Clark would be allowed to invoke this right “question by question” at the next interview.

The last time committee investigators spoke to Mr. Clark, they had a long list of questions about his role in trying to help Mr. Trump overturn his 2020 election defeat.

They wanted to ask Mr. Clark about a national intelligence briefing he had requested about a crazy theory that China could hack voting machines using thermostats. They were planning to press him over a letter he had offered to write to Georgia lawmakers, urging them to come up with an alternative voters list for Mr. Trump, instead of President Biden, who had won the election. ‘State. And they wanted to dig into any conversations he might have had with a group of Mr. Trump’s allies who had gathered at a Washington, DC hotel in the days before the riot to plan the effort to overthrow the elections.

Mr. Clark offered no response.

“We will not answer any questions or produce any documents,” said Clark’s lawyer Harry W. MacDougald categorically.

The vote was the second such confrontation between the committee and an ally of Mr. Trump since Congress began investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol riot, including the former president’s attempts to overturn the election .

The House voted in October to recommend that another of Mr. Trump’s associates, Stephen K. Bannon, be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for blocking the investigation. A federal grand jury later indicted him with two counts of up to two years behind bars.

A third recalcitrant witness, Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff under Mr. Trump, reached an agreement with the committee on Tuesday to provide documents and to appear voluntarily for testimony. This is a notable reversal for a crucial witness to the investigation, although it’s unclear how much information he will be willing to provide.

The committee interviewed over 200 witnesses and issued 45 subpoenas. On Tuesday, the panel heard five hours of closed-door testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn election results there.

Some of the most wanted witnesses on the panel, including Mr. Meadows; Dan Scavino Jr., former Deputy Chief of Staff; and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon chief of staff, are expected to testify, Thompson said.

Under federal law, anyone called as a congressional witness who refuses to comply can face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of $ 100 to $ 100,000 and jail time of up to $ 100,000. months to a year.

Pushing back on the committee’s October subpoena, Mr. Clark said his conversations with Mr. Trump were protected by solicitor-client privilege and the former president’s assertion of solicitor-client privilege.

Mr. MacDougald told the committee last month that he and Mr. Clark were interpreting executive privilege to cover conversations and documents that did not involve Mr. Trump.

“The privileges that are under the global umbrella of executive privilege are numerous,” said Mr. MacDougald.

He also cited law enforcement privilege and deliberative process privilege. “There are a number,” he added.

Mr Trump has lodged a complaint against the committee, seeking to block his access to hundreds of White House documents, although a federal appeals court appeared skeptical on Tuesday about his claim he has the power to block the panel’s request for White House files related to the attack on the Capitol.

The Biden administration declined to assert its document privilege, arguing that no such protection should be given to documents that could shed light on a president’s attempts to undermine a Democratic election.


nytimes Gt

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