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On January 6, panel fixes vote for contempt of former DOJ official

A House committee investigating the Jan.6 Capitol uprising will vote on Wednesday to outrage a former Justice Department official, demanding criminal charges against a provocative witness for the second time as lawmakers seek answers on the violent attack.

The committee scheduled a vote on Monday to prosecute contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who partnered with former President Donald Trump as he tried to reverse his electoral defeat. If approved by the panel, the recommendation for criminal contempt charges would then go to the plenary assembly for a vote, and then to the Department of Justice.

Clark appeared for a deposition on November 5, but told lawmakers he would not answer questions based in part on Trump’s legal efforts to block the committee’s investigation.

The vote will come as the panel also considers contempt charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s main aide on the day hundreds of his supporters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol. and discontinued President Joe Biden’s certification of victory. Meadows was subpoenaed in September but has yet to attend an interview with the committee.

FILE – Mark Meadows, then White House chief of staff, speaks on the phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, October 30, 2020.

Panel members pledged to aggressively seek charges against any witnesses who fail to comply as they investigate the worst attack on Capitol Hill in two centuries, and the Justice Department has indicated it is willing to pursue these charges, blaming longtime Trump ally Steve. Bannon earlier this month on two federal counts of criminal contempt. Attorney General Merrick Garland then said Bannon’s indictment reflected the department’s “unwavering commitment” to the rule of law after Bannon outright defied the committee and refused to cooperate.

Clark’s case could be more complicated since he appeared for his testimony and, unlike Bannon, was an official in the Trump administration on January 6. conversations and actions at this time should be protected from public view.

On January 6, panel fixes vote for contempt of former DOJ official

FILE – Former White House strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the FBI field office in Washington, Washington on November 15, 2021.

A report released by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee detailed how Clark defended Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and as a result clashed with Justice Department superiors who resisted the pressure, resulting in at a dramatic White House meeting in which Trump brooded over Clark’s rise to attorney general. He did not do so after several collaborators threatened to resign.

In a somewhat similar case, the Justice Department in 2015 refused to prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress after Lerner gave an opening statement at a hearing, but then refused. repeatedly to answer questions from lawmakers, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate.

This time, however, the Justice Department is reviewing the charges against a former administration official, not a current official. With little precedent, it is unclear what the department would do.

Clark is one of 40 people the committee has subpoenaed so far. Panel chairman, Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, wrote in Clark’s subpoena that the committee’s investigation “revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to shut down the peaceful transfer of power “and its efforts” risked involving the Ministry of Justice “. Justice in actions that lacked evidence and threatened to overthrow the rule of law. “

After Clark refused to answer questions, Thompson said it was “astonishing that someone who so recently held a post of public trust in upholding the Constitution is now hiding behind vague claims of privilege by an elder. president, refuses to answer questions about an attack on our democracy and continue the assault on the rule of law. “

Lawmakers on the committee said they would decide as early as this week whether to hold Meadows in contempt as well. Thompson said earlier this month that the committee “will not rush efforts” to make it clear that it has given the former North Carolina congressman multiple opportunities to cooperate.

Meadows’ attorney has made it clear on several occasions that he will not comply with the September subpoena, arguing that Trump has said he will assert executive privilege over testimony. The committee rejected those arguments, especially since the White House has said Biden will waive any privilege over the Meadows interview, and courts have so far rejected Trump’s efforts to prevent the committee from collecting evidence. information.

Members of the House panel argued that they had questions for Meadows and Clark, as they did with Bannon, that did not directly involve conversations with Trump and could not be blocked by claims of privilege.

In the committee’s September subpoena, Thompson cited Meadows’ efforts to reverse Trump’s defeat in the weeks leading up to the insurgency and his pressure on state officials to push the former president’s false claims on widespread electoral fraud.

Despite Trump’s false claims of a stolen election – the main motivation behind the violent mob that broke into Capitol Hill and interrupted Biden’s certification of victory – the results were confirmed by state officials and confirmed by the courts. Trump’s own attorney general William Barr had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have altered the results.


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