The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack has voted to forward contempt charges for Jeffrey Clark, a former Trump-era Department of Justice (DOJ) official who has refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena requests.
When Clark appeared before the January 6 commission in early November, he refused to answer questions about his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the commission voted unanimously to forward the consideration to hold Clark in contempt of Congress — but lawmakers added that they will drop their recommendation for charges against him if he decides to comply by this weekend.
Clark has asserted a Fifth Amendment privilege claim in his refusal to testify to the commission. That amendment holds that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
Commission chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) called the defense a “last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings.” He also said that if Clark wants to assert the privilege claim, he can do so in person, in front of the committee.
“I have informed Mr. Clark’s attorney that I am willing to convene another deposition at which Mr. Clark can assert that privilege on a question-by-question basis, which is what the law requires of someone who asserts the privilege against self-incrimination,” Thompson said.
Clark has “agreed to do so,” Thompson added. But if his answers are not sufficient — and if he pleads the Fifth Amendment protections for all questions asked — the commission may move forward with its contempt of Congress charges.
“We need witnesses to cooperate with their legal obligation and provide us with information about what led to the January 6th attack,” Thompson said.
Clark is being asked to testify about what he knows regarding Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, and to hand over documents that detail his communications with Trump, other White House officials, and Trump’s re-election campaign staff.
It was previously revealed that Trump tried to use Clark to get the DOJ to help him overturn the 2020 election. Clark, who has himself pushed false claims of election fraud, was an ally to Trump during his tenure at the department.
Trump developed a plan to replace then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, who would then help the former president use the department to falsely allege that there was widespread election fraud that warranted ignoring the election results. That scheme was thwarted after two White House lawyers and Richard Donoghue — then second-in-command at the DOJ — threatened to resign if Trump followed through.
Clark also developed his own schemes to help the former president keep the White House. It was his recommendation to send letters to Georgia state lawmakers in order to delay the certification of election results showing that Biden had won. The former DOJ official also wanted to hold a press conference in which the DOJ would announce that it was investigating fraud claims. Clark hoped that this would encourage lawmakers in Congress to refuse to certify the Electoral College.