Jeffrey Clark once had so much to say—like telling a former Department of Justice superior he would have that man’s job if he didn’t go along with a scheme to overturn results of the 2020 election—and now? So much silence.
The former Department of Justice official finally sat with the Jan. 6 committee on Wednesday. As he predicted months ago, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right, opting against answering questions he believed might incriminate him.
His time in the hot seat was rather short. According to CNN, Clark only sat for about an hour and 40 minutes. He previously appeared for deposition last November and was recalcitrant, refusing to answer any questions of substance while allowing his lawyer, Harry MacDougald, to do the talking.
At that Nov. 5 meeting, according to a transcript, MacDougald used Trump’s challenge to stop the transfer of presidential records from the National Archives to the committee as cover for Clark.
But Trump has since lost that lawsuit, and the 770-plus pages of records were transferred. What has followed in recent weeks has been a steady trickle of damning information about the breadth of the former administration’s strategy to subvert President Joe Biden’s victory.
In the shadow of Trump’s legal defeat, however, exactly what defense Clark mounted this week—beyond “no comment”—is unclear. A committee spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about when a transcript of this week’s deposition would be published.
Clark’s brief appearance comes after several weeks of delays due to an undisclosed health issue. Out of respect for his privacy, the committee did not elaborate.
A criminal contempt of Congress referral by the full House of Representatives could now be waiting in the wings for Clark. The committee already voted to hold him in contempt in December after he waylaid his cooperation for several weeks following his initial subpoena in October. Though the committee voted unanimously to hold him in contempt, it staved off sending the resolution to the full House for a vote after giving him another chance to talk.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and member of the Jan. 6 committee, described the meeting with Clark on Wednesday to CNN as “very disappointing” but also said that the probe may consider giving Clark something called “use immunity.”
Use immunity, Lofgren explained, effectively means that any testimony Clark might give to the committee could not be used in a criminal case.
“If the Justice Department finds out about it some other way, they are not precluded from proceeding. We have not made that decision but we are sorting through those issues right now to see whether that is an appropriate step to take,” she said.
Clark once served as the acting head of the civil division of the Department of Justice under Trump.
According to records and interviews obtained by the committee, just after Christmas Eve in 2020, Clark reportedly met with Trump in secret. After that meeting, Clark set about enacting a pressure campaign to have then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Rosen’s then-deputy, Richard Donoghue, tell key swing state legislatures they should install alternate electors.
Within three days of speaking to Rosen about the alternate electors—many of whom have now been subpoenaed by the committee—Clark drafted a letter for Rosen to approve.
The letter instructed Georgia state officials to say publicly that the Justice Department was aware of election fraud and that a special legislative session was needed to review the incongruences.
Rejected Draft Letter From ... by Daily Kos
But there was no widespread election fraud. And Rosen refused to abide by the scheme, informing Clark it was a gross violation of Department of Justice policy.
Clark allegedly kept meeting with Trump anyway.
Then, on Jan. 2, just four days before the Capitol attack, Rosen told investigators Clark threatened his job and told him Trump wanted Rosen out and Clark in his place.
In a tit-for-tat deal, Clark then said he might be able to persuade Trump to let Rosen keep his job if he went along with the bogus letter he drafted in December.
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