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Jan. 6 panel subpoenas former DOJ official over Trump bid to deny Biden election win

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Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside the Capitol as police clear the building with tear gas, in Washington, January 6, 2021.

Stephanie Keith | Reuters

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot subpoenaed former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark on Wednesday, citing evidence he tried to disrupt the post-election transfer of power to Joe Biden from Donald Trump.

Clark, the former acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s civil division, was subpoenaed for documents and to appear for a deposition on Oct. 29, the House panel said.

In a letter, the committee said it has uncovered “credible evidence” that Clark tried to involve the DOJ “in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

The committee’s latest subpoena came five days after announcing it could soon send a referral to hold former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with his own subpoena. Bannon is scheduled to appear for a deposition Thursday.

Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said investigators need to know “all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results.”

“We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration. The Select Committee expects Mr. Clark to cooperate fully with our investigation,” Thompson said.

Jeff Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, September 14, 2020.

Susan Walsh | AFP | Getty Images

The letter to Clark heavily cites a Senate Judiciary Committee report in which he is prominently featured, titled “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.”

That report showed Clark proposing that the DOJ send letters to Georgia and other swing states Biden won, urging them to consider replacing their slates of presidential electors on the basis of “sworn evidence of election irregularities.”

That draft letter suggested that the legislatures of those states convene in special sessions to “take whatever action is necessary” if the “election failed to make a proper and valid choice,” according to the Senate report.

Clark’s proposed letter was sent in a Dec. 28 email to then-acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue, who promptly rejected it. “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this,” Donoghue wrote back, the report said.

The three officials then met in person for a tense meeting, wherein Clark said Trump was considering replacing DOJ leadership, according to the report.

Days later in a Dec. 31 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump reportedly told Rosen and Donoghue that people had told him he should fire them and install Clark. Speaking to Rosen that same day, Clark said that Trump asked him whether he would be willing to take over as acting attorney general if Rosen was replaced.

The Senate report “further indicates that you engaged in unauthorized investigation of allegations of voter fraud and failed to abide by the Department’s policy on contacts with with the White House,” the House committee’s letter to Clark said.

“Your efforts risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” the letter said.

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