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Former Trump DOJ official set to plead the Fifth before Jan. 6 committee

ABC News
ABC News
 2021-12-02

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Wednesday unanimously recommended contempt charges against former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, even as panel leaders agreed to give him an opportunity to comply with their subpoena this weekend.

The last-minute development will delay a House floor vote to hold Clark in contempt of Congress and refer the matter to the Justice Department before Saturday, when he is expected on Capitol Hill to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege before the committee in person.

"This is, in my view, a last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings. However, a Fifth Amendment privilege assertion is a weighty one," Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Wednesday night, before the full committee vote.

"I have informed Mr. Clark’s attorney that I am willing to convene another deposition at which Mr. Clark can assert that privilege on a question-by-question basis, which is what the law requires of someone who asserts the privilege against self-incrimination. Mr. Clark has agreed to do so," Thompson said.

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Susan Walsh/POOL/AFP via Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: In this Sept. 14, 2020, file photo, Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Unlike Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was held in contempt of Congress by the House and charged by the Justice Department, Clark appeared before the committee with his attorney on Nov. 5, in response to their subpoena for records and testimony.

But he left after 90 minutes, after refusing to answer any questions, citing claims of executive privilege, which the committee has disputed, and Trump’s ongoing legal challenge to the panel’s inquiry.

MORE: DOJ officials rejected colleague's request to intervene in Georgia's election certification: Emails

Clark declined to answer direct questions about his knowledge of Georgia election law and his conversations with members of Congress, both of which committee members argued would not be covered by any claims of executive privilege.

The committee also sought to question him about Trump’s efforts to get the Justice Department to investigate baseless claims of election fraud.

Ahead of the Capitol riot, Clark played a prominent role advancing Trump's efforts to challenge the election results inside his administration. He circulated a draft letter inside the Justice Department to urge Georgia's governor and top Georgia officials to convene the state legislature to investigate voter fraud claims.

On Tuesday, committee members spent four hours interviewing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a source familiar with the interview confirmed to ABC News.

Raffensperger was the target of a pressure campaign from then-President Trump and his aides and allies last year over the results of the presidential election in Georgia. Joe Biden was the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election in nearly three decades.

Comments / 883

jargusti
12-01

If people like Clark. Bannon, and possibly even Meadows refuse to be deposed or produce the relevant documents that've been asked for then obviously they've got something to hide. The excuse of 'executive privilege' isn't a good enough and the courts will attest to that. If any of these men had nothing to hide they would've answered questions and provided documents.

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Joyce Overstreet
12-02

How does he get to claim executive privilege? What are they hiding in those documents that they would risk everything to be loyal to Trump, So they put Trump before their own family., That's what a half of a man would do.

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Mel in MN
12-02

The statement regarding pleading the fifth, “which is what the law requires of someone who asserts the privilege against self-incrimination.” says it all.

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