DOJ searches home of former official who aided alleged pro-Trump ‘coup’

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Law enforcement officials on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of former top Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, according to his employer and former Trump administration colleague.

Russ Vought, who served as former President Donald Trump's White House budget director and now works with Clark at the Center for Renewing America, tweeted that "more than a dozen DOJ law enforcement officials searched Jeff Clark’s house in a pre dawn raid, put him in the streets in his pjs, and took his electronic devices." A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington stated only that law enforcement recently engaged in “activity” in the vicinity of Clark's home.

That office is leading investigations related to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, although the spokesperson declined to link the activity to any individual or probe.

The search appears to escalate DOJ's investigations of Trump allies and associates. For months, the department has been scrutinizing people connected to the so-called alternate electors scheme — where Republicans in states that Joe Biden won in 2020 sent slates of pro-Trump electors to Washington. A number of Republicans around the country signed on as so-called alternate electors.

In late 2020, Clark urged the then-acting attorney general Jeff Rosen to send a letter to top Georgia officials calling for a special session of the legislature. The letter claimed that the department had found evidence of voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the presidential race in several states — which wasn’t true — and also implied that Georgia's legislature could hold a special session overriding the declared outcome of its presidential ballot to send pro-Trump electors to Washington.

A key question regarding the Clark search is whether it happened because of his connection to the alternate electors scheme, or because of other actions that are not currently known to be under investigation by the Justice Department. Regardless, it’s rare for former top administration officials, particularly from DOJ, to face law enforcement scrutiny.

The Clark search is not the only recent indication of law enforcement activity linked to the 2020 election gaining steam: Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward and her husband Michael have received grand jury subpoenas, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The development suggests a deepening DOJ investigation of an effort by Republican Party officials to deliver false slates of electors to Congress. Both Michael and Kelli Ward were among the pro-Trump activists who signed certificates claiming to be the duly-elected and qualified electors for Trump from Arizona.

“This is an Investigation based on allegations that our clients engaged in core First Amendment-protected activity petitioning Congress for redress of grievances," said Alexander Kolodin, an attorney for the Wards.

The Clark-related activity came just before Congress' Jan. 6 select committee held a public hearing that intensely scrutinized him and other allies of the former president. That hearing was originally set for June 15 but was postponed. Select panel members attributed the delay to challenges involved in producing videos for that and other sessions.

The hearing revealed new details of how Clark became quickly ensconced at the highest level of Trump World. As Jan. 6 neared, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested that then-acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen send Clark to Fulton County, Ga., as part of the department’s election work, according to an email from Jan. 1, 2021, summarized by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

The email suggested that Meadows, at least in this instance, tried to micromanage the Justice Department’s investigations into allegations of voter fraud.

When asked what he did in response to the chief of staff’s missive, Clark was frank. “Well, really, nothing,” he replied. “Certainly didn’t send Mr. Clark to Fulton County.”

The panel also revealed that in some corners of the White House, Clark’s ascent to acting attorney general was seen as a given. A White House document produced before the infamous meeting showed him referred to as “acting attorney general.”

Videos and witness testimony at the hearing also depicted a meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, that turned into a dogpile on Clark over his involvement in pushing false fraud claims. Eric Herschmann, who was a White House lawyer at the time, described in footage played by the select panel that he called Clark an “a-hole” in the meeting. The remark came after Clark talked about how he would use a grand jury to investigate Trump-backed fraud allegations.

“When he finished discussing what he planned on doing, I said good — fucking excuse me, sorry, a-hole — congratulations,” Herschmann said in taped testimony recalling his conversation with Clark. “You just admitted the first step or act you’d take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6(e). You’re clearly the right candidate for this job.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has previously criticized DOJ for what he perceived as lack of urgency to investigate Trump-related conduct, said the public indicators of the past 48 hours have changed his view.

“I think the department certainty now is visibly investigating certain elements of this plot,” Schiff said before the hearing but after the raid of Clark's home was reported. “This is what I was referring to when I said that, while the Department of Justice has a policy about not speaking about any ongoing investigation, you can usually see signs of it with the convening of a grand jury or the execution of a search warrant or the serving of subpoenas. And now we’re starting to see some of that activity, and going beyond a focus on those who broke into this building on January 6.”

Select committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) declined to weigh in on the Clark raid before the hearing, saying he'd just heard about it. Vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) similarly declined to discuss the matter.

Ken Klukowski, a Clark deputy described by Cheney as connected to the drafting of the letter to the states, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vought tweeted that the raid on Clark's house was "[a]ll because Jeff saw fit to investigate voter fraud. This is not America, folks." He also wrote that his organization stands with Clark, and that the raid is part of a "new era of criminalizing politics" in the U.S.

Clark, now a senior fellow at the group where Vought serves as president, headed DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division for much of the Trump administration. ABC News first reported that federal agents searched Clark’s home in Lorton, Va., on Wednesday morning.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misstated Rep. Liz Cheney's party affiliation.