Criminal Contempt Proceedings Against Trump Ally Announced By Jan. 6 Committee

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The House committee investigating the Capitol riot has settled on its next target for criminal contempt proceedings: Jeffrey Clark, who served at the Department of Justice in the Trump administration. Although the riot investigation committee subpoenaed Clark, he has refused to answer substantive questions from the panel regarding relevant matters. In the Trump administration, Clark allied himself with the then-president on the issue of supposed election fraud. Among other examples, Clark tried to gin up official Justice Department support for the false election fraud claims, and Trump temporarily contemplated appointing Clark as acting Attorney General.

The riot investigation committee’s announcement regarding Clark was simple, stating that, on Wednesday, the panel’s members “will vote on a report recommending that the House of Representatives cite Jeffrey Clark for criminal contempt of Congress and refer him for prosecution.” There’s no major dissent within the committee — pro-Trump Republicans had the opportunity to join the panel, but refused — so the contempt finding against Clark seems essentially certain to be approved. After that, the matter moves to the full House, which previously approved a finding of contempt against top Trump ally Steve Bannon — who’s now been indicted by the Justice Department on two charges of contempt of Congress.

The final decision on bringing charges in these cases is the Justice Department’s responsibility, but those behind the investigation are clearly inclined towards consequences for stonewalling. After Clark’s initial refusal to answer the committee’s questions, chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) spoke out, saying that 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 proceedings against Clark move forward, it’s worth noting that the riot investigation committee has already heard from over 200 witnesses — so the investigation itself is making progress, against the best efforts of ex-President Trump and others.

Up next for contempt proceedings could be former chief of staff in the Trump White House Mark Meadows, who has, alongside Clark and Bannon, resisted answering the riot investigation committee’s questions, despite subpoenas. As referenced by Thompson, Trump has claimed that he possesses so-called executive privilege that covers what the panel is after — but if such a tenuous concept can’t even be overruled by the needs of an investigation into an attack on the Capitol, then when can it be?