Jun 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ex-Trump officials say Clark plans to probe election "nuts"

Photo of a hearing room
Photo: Demetrius Freeman/Pool via Getty Image

Former Trump officials testified Thursday that Jeffrey Clark, former assistant attorney general, wanted to investigate election fraud and have former President Trump install him as attorney general with a plan they called "nuts" and a "murder-suicide pact."

Driving the news: Trump considered naming Clark, an environmental attorney, to replace acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen after Rosen refuted claims of fraud.

Clark had had "no prior involvement" with the DOJ's work, former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen said.

  • When Clark met with the president, which circumvented White House policy, Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy "told Mr. Clark to stand down, and he didn't," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said.
  • On the same day Rosen told Clark to stop talking to the White House, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) urged Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows to elevate Clark within the DOJ.
  • Rosen also said he did not authorize Clark to attend a meeting at the White House.
  • After receiving the letter, Donoghue discussed the issue with Clark in several "confrontational" conversations, Donoghue said. "When I said, 'This is nothing less than Justice Department meddling in an election,' his reaction was, 'I think a lot of people have meddled in this election.'"

What they're saying: Cipollone called a draft letter written by Clark that said the DOJ had evidence of fraud a "murder-suicide pact" should he send it to state officials, former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue told the committee.

  • "I said, good f--cking — excuse me, sorry, f'ing a-hole, congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you would take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6(e)," former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified in a pre-taped deposition.
  • Donoghue also said he told Clark, "You're an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we'll call you when there's an oil spill."
  • After reading Clark's letter, Donoghue said he felt he needed to "give a prompt response rejecting" the plan. "In my response, I explained a number of reasons this is not the department's role to suggest or dictate the state legislatures how they should select their electors."
  • "More importantly, this was not based on fact ... For the department to insert itself into the political process this way, I think would have had grave consequences for the country. It may have spiraled us into a constitutional crisis."
  • He later testified he made clear to the president that Clark was "completely incompetent" to run the department. "He's never even been to Chris Wray's office," Donoghue said, referring to the FBI director.

Worth noting: Clark, who helped Trump amplify false claims around the election, largely refused to answer questions in a deposition with the special House panel.

More from Axios:

Go deeper