Apr 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump DOJ official likely broke ethics rules, D.C. Bar panel finds

 Jeffrey Clark, former Acting Assistant Attorney General, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Jeffrey Clark, former acting assistant attorney general, on Capitol Hill in June. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice official, likely violated ethics rules over his efforts to help overturn the 2020 election results in favor of former President Trump, a D.C. Bar review found Thursday.

Why it matters: The D.C. Bar's non-binding, preliminary ruling sets off a process that could result in penalties including the disbarment of Clark, who's seen as a potential candidate for a senior administration position if Trump is elected in November for a second term.

The big picture: Clark was the assistant attorney general for the DOJ's environmental division that drafted a letter claiming the Justice Department had evidence of fraud when it didn't.

  • Clark was accused of attempting to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty" and in conduct that "would seriously interfere with the administration of justice," according to the initial charge filing in July 2022.

Zoom in: This "Proof of Concept" draft letter addressed to Georgia public officials following the 2020 presidential election falsely said the DOJ had "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome" of the results in the state and elsewhere.

  • The initial charge filing cites other falsehoods and notes the draft letter also recommended that a special legislative session be held in Georgia.

State of play: During his testimony in the disciplinary trial, Clark said he was adamant in his belief that fraud had occurred in the 2020 election and must be investigated despite being told several times by superiors to change course, AP reports.

  • He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination multiple times throughout his testimony.
  • Several former Trump DOJ officials testified in the hearing, including former acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen.
  • "Everybody was in agreement except Mr. Clark that the path Mr. Clark was advocating was wrong," Rosen said, according to Politico.

Zoom out: Clark and Trump were among 19 people indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, on state racketeering charges over alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. All have pleaded not guilty in the case.

What's next D.C. Disciplinary Counsel Phil Fox said he would seek to have Clark disbarred following the three-person committee's ruling following a days-long hearing on the matter, per the Washington Post.

  • In typical cases, parties involved in a matter file briefs and the committee prepares a report and recommendation, which is filed with the Board on Professional Responsibility, per an emailed statement from a D.C. Bar spokesperson Thursday evening.
  • "That report and recommendation is not final either," the spokesperson noted. 
"The Board will then take briefs and hear oral argument, and issue its own report and recommendation, which is filed with the Court. The Board's report and recommendation is not final. Finally, the matter will go to the Court of Appeals, which will take briefs and hear oral argument, and issue its opinion, which will be the final order in this case."

Go deeper: Ex-Trump lawyer John Eastman should be disbarred, judge rules

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