The chairman of the House Committee investigating the Jan.6 riot at Capitol criticized a former Trump Justice Department officer for refusing to answer any questions regarding the attack during a scheduled hearing.
Jeffrey Clark, a former acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division who played a key role in then-President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, frustrated members of the committee when he arrived on Capitol Hill with a 12-page letter from his attorney, obtained by Politico, explaining his refusal to testify. Clark was unable to testify because of executive privilege, according to the letter.
Harry MacDougald wrote that Clark wanted to wait until Trump’s lawsuit against the committee challenging its power to access certain White House documents.
The panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., rejected Clark’s executive privilege claim, saying the committee needs “the information that he is withholding and we are willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation.”
“Mr. “Clark’s total failure to cooperate today was unacceptable,” Thompson stated in a Friday statement. “He has a very short time to reconsider and cooperate fully.”
A nearly 400-page report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October laid out a detailed timeline of Trump’s campaign to pressure Justice Department officials to help him try to reverse President Joe Biden’s victory. The report’s findings are based on testimony from three former Justice Department officials, as well as documents and emails. The Senate report stated that Trump wanted to replace Jeffrey Rosen (then the acting attorney general) with Clark. Clark devised a strategy for Trump’s Justice Department to intervene with Georgia’s presidential election and to replicate the model in other states. The report stated that Clark’s proposal was rejected by Rosen and Richard Donoghue (then acting deputy attorney general).
The Jan. 6 committee — composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans — has already recommended contempt charges for a Trump ally who refused to cooperate with its investigation. In October, the panel unanimously approved a bill to refer former Trump advisor SteveBannon to Justice Department for criminal contempt charges for refusing to cooperate in its investigation. The House passed a resolution asking the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges in the matter.
Dartunorro Clark covers politics, including the Covid-19 recovery, for NBC News.