Ex-top Justice Dept officials testimony sought in ethics hearing of Trump ally Clark

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top two U.S. Justice Department officials in the waning days of Donald Trump's presidency will be asked to testify publicly in a legal disciplinary hearing against their former colleague Jeffrey Bossert Clark, who allegedly tried to help Trump overturn his election loss.

Hamilton "Phil" Fox, the head of the D.C. bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, disclosed his plans to call former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Rich Donoghue as witnesses during a D.C. bar ethics committee hearing on Thursday.

Clark, who is also facing a parallel federal investigation into his conduct, is accused of attempting to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty" and attempting actions "that would seriously interfere with the administration of justice," according to the charging document filed by Fox's office.

He has denied wrongdoing, citing 54 different defenses, some of which also claim that the D.C. Bar lacks jurisdiction to bring the case against him.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is part of the D.C. Bar. It investigates possible misconduct by Washington lawyers and has the power to pursue disciplinary charges, which can lead to the suspension of a license to practice law or disbarment.

Earlier this year, Rosen and Donoghue both testified publicly before the U.S. House of Representatives committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol about Clark's efforts to pressure them to launch election fraud investigations based on former President Trump's false claims the election was stolen.

His alleged pressure campaign centers on a draft letter Clark asked Rosen and Donoghue to send to lawmakers in Georgia asking them to call a special session based on false claims that the Justice Department had "significant concerns" about the legitimacy of Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the state.

After Rosen and Donoghue refused, citing no evidence of fraud, Clark persisted and sought to get Trump to oust Rosen and install him as Acting Attorney General so he could pursue election fraud investigations.

Reuters previously reported that Rosen and Donoghue had also given interviews privately behind closed doors as witnesses in the D.C. bar's ethics probe.

"Our position is that after he was initially told there was no basis to make these claims, that he came back and used coercive methods and means to attempt to get the letter sent," Fox told the committee's chairman during Thursday's hearing.

He added that he intends to subpoena more documents from Clark in the near future that Clark thinks may support his claims there were voting irregularities in Georgia.

Clark previously tried to convince the D.C. bar to defer the disciplinary hearing, saying that fact is he separately facing a related criminal investigation by the Justice Department for conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. His request was denied.

Merril Hirsh, the chairman of ethics committee, said on Thursday he intends to hold public disciplinary proceedings during the week of Jan. 9, 2023.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Aurora Ellis)