Updated Dec 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Jan. 6 panel approves contempt referral for Trump DOJ official

Man in suit and glasses stands at podium/lectern in front of a blue backdrop with The White House emblem.
Former acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark in October 2020. Photo: Yuri Gripas-Pool/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 Select Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend holding former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in contempt of Congress.

Driving the news: The committee offered Clark another chance to give his deposition this weekend before finalizing the measure.

Why it matters: The House's willingness to pursue criminal contempt charges to enforce the committee's subpoenas has proved a potent cudgel for evasive witnesses.

  • Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has begun engaging with them after threats over his own lack of cooperation.
  • Former White House strategist Steve Bannon was indicted after the House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress in October.

A report from the committee says Clark "appeared at the negotiated time designated for his deposition but refused to produce any documents or answer pertinent questions."

  • The committee is seeking information about any effort by Clark to overturn the 2020 presidential election and disrupt the counting of electoral votes while at the DOJ.
  • The seven Democrats and two Republicans on the committee all voted in favor of holding him in contempt.

What they're saying: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a select committee member, said in an emailed statement that Clark "has direct knowledge of former President Donald Trump's efforts to politicize the Department of Justice following the November election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power."

  • "By refusing to appear, he's violating the law. He will be held accountable," he added in a tweet.

The other side: Clark's attorney sent a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chair of the committee, stating Clark is "asserting his rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

  • Thompson called the letter a "last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings" but added that he communicated to Clark's attorney the panel is "willing to convene another deposition."
  • Thompson said Clark has "agreed to appear again," but that the panel would nonetheless proceed with considering the contempt report "as this is just the first step of the contempt process."
  • "We will not finalize this contempt process if Mr. Clark genuinely cures his failure to comply with this subpoena this Saturday," Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the top Republican on the panel, added.

What's next: If the process is finalized, the measure now goes to a vote of the full House, which could happen as soon as this week. It would then be referred to the DOJ for any prosecution.

  • The measure is all but certain to pass the House, which previously voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt. Nine Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting that resolution.
  • The DOJ could then act swiftly. Federal prosecutors indicted Bannon just 22 days after the House passed its contempt resolution.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Schiff.

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