Criminal Contempt Charges For Trump DOJ Official Under Urgent Consideration

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Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who’s the chairman of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, spoke out this week to put former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark on notice after Clark refused to answer substantive questions from the committee. Clark tied his refusal to claims by former President Trump of executive privilege, although Trump hasn’t even tried to invoke executive privilege to keep Clark from testifying. Bizarrely, POLITICO explains how Clark’s lawyer “argued to the Jan. 6 panel that Trump’s letter declining to impede Clark’s testimony should, in fact, block it — because it indicated that Trump could change his position on letting former DOJ officials testify if Congress asked for privileged information from other senior officials.”

Thompson and the other members of the riot investigation committee were not impressed by the rhetorical pretzels upon which Clark has relied. Thompson has indicated that voting to hold Clark in contempt of Congress is among the possibilities for next steps. The chairman added as follows on Friday:

‘Mr. Clark’s complete failure to cooperate today is unacceptable. His refusal to answer questions about the former President’s attempt to use the Department of Justice to overturn the election is in direct contrast to his supervisors at the Department, who have come in and answered the committee’s questions on these important topics. It’s astounding that someone who so recently held a position of public trust to uphold the Constitution would now hide behind vague claims of privilege by a former President, refuse to answer questions about an attack on our democracy, and continue an assault on the rule of law. As prescribed by the House Rules, I have considered Mr. Clark’s claim of privilege and rejected it. He has a very short time to reconsider and cooperate fully.  We need the information that he is withholding and we are willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation.’

At the Justice Department, Clark was on the front lines of Trump’s attempts to use the powers of the federal government to support his efforts to stay in power beyond the legal limit. Trump even temporarily considered making Clark the acting Attorney General. Besides that, Clark also pushed (albeit unsuccessfully) for top Justice officials to send a letter to officials in Georgia claiming that federal investigators had uncovered fraud evidence calling the election outcome into question in certain states, which was not true. Clark, though (besides his other machinations), wanted to also push for the calling of a special legislative session in Georgia to look at the issue. Post-Election Day, state legislators in locales where Biden won were under pressure from Trump World to appoint electoral college members who’d support Trump, no matter Biden’s victories.