The House committee investigating the 6 January Capitol insurrection has issued a subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, the ex-Trump administration Justice Department official who reportedly pushed for the nation’s federal law enforcement apparatus to help then-President Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election.
In a letter to Mr Clark accompanying the subpoena, Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol Chairman Bennie Thompson said his committee’s investigation “has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power” by proposing that the department send letters encouraging swing state legislators to delay certifying their own election results.
Had Mr Clark’s proposal been successful, enough states could have withheld their electoral votes to deny either President Joe Biden or then-President Trump a majority, leaving the choice of the next president to a House vote by state delegation. Because Republicans control a majority of House delegations, Mr Trump would have been installed as president for a second term despite losing both the popular and electoral vote in the 2020 election.
Mr Clark also reportedly pushed Mr Trump to install him as Acting Attorney General, a proposal that was scuttled after Justice Department leadership threatened to resign en masse.
“Your efforts risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” Mr Thompson wrote. “Accordingly, the Select Committee seeks both documents and your deposition testimony regarding these and other matters that are within the scope of the Select Committee’s inquiry.”
The subpoena commands Mr Clark to produce requested documents to the committee and appear for a deposition on 29 October, but it’s unclear whether he’ll cooperate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee requested that he submit to a voluntary interview during its investigation of Mr Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election. Although the Justice Department in July authorised Mr Clark — who had left government service at the end of Mr Trump’s term — to provide “unrestricted testimony … irrespective of potential privilege” on matters within the scope of the committee’s investigation, he declined to participate in any interviews, and earlier this month Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin asked the District of Columbia Bar to review Mr Clark’s conduct.
Because the House committee has chosen to issue a subpoena to Mr Clark rather than request that he appear voluntarily, a failure to respond could result in his being referred to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress, a crime punishable by up to a year in prison.
In an 8 October statement concerning former Trump adviser Steve Bannon — whose attorney has told the committee he will decline to honour the subpoena at the direction of Mr Trump’s counsel — Mr Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney said the committee will act to enforce its subpoenas with haste.
“We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” they said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Thompson said his committee “needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results”.
“We need to understand Mr Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration. The Select Committee expects Mr Clark to cooperate fully with our investigation.”
The Independent has reached out to Mr Clark for comment.