Jan. 6 committee to hold contempt vote for Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark

·4 min read

On Monday, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol scheduled a Wednesday vote to pursue criminal contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a Trump Justice Department official who assisted the former president in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The committee issued a subpoena to Clark back in October seeking testimony and records related to those efforts. Earlier this month, Clark appeared for a deposition before the panel but declined to answer substantive questions, citing Trump’s ongoing lawsuit to block congressional investigators from accessing his White House records.

Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark, former assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ. (Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The contempt vote for Clark will take place roughly three weeks after a federal grand jury indicted former Trump aide Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the Select Committee. The vote also comes as the panel considers whether to seek contempt charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has so far declined to sit for an interview with the committee despite receiving a subpoena in September.

“I think we will probably make a decision this week on our course of conduct with that particular witness and maybe others,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the Select Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “I can't go into ... what communications that we’re having or haven’t had with particular witnesses, but we are moving with alacrity with anyone who obstructs the committee, and that was certainly the case with Mr. Bannon. It will be the case with Mr. Meadows, and Mr. Clark or any others.”

Mark Meadows
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows greets Trump supporters at a rally in Reading, Pa., Oct. 31, 2020. (Carlos Barria/File photo via Reuters)

Bannon, who served as Trump’s chief strategist during his 2016 campaign and then worked in the White House for several months, was charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with two criminal counts stemming from his failure to comply with the Select Committee’s subpoena, one for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to produce requested documents. Although Bannon’s indictment demonstrates the Justice Department’s willingness to pursue charges against those who refuse to cooperate with the House probe, the case against Clark may prove more challenging for prosecutors. Not only did Clark show up for his deposition, he was also a Trump administration official on Jan. 6, when hundreds of the former president’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol building and delayed the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory. Bannon, in contrast, left his role at the White House in 2017, making the case for executive privilege less convincing.

Steve Bannon
Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon in November 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month revealed how, during his last days in the White House, Trump had conspired with Clark on ways to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election and even considered installing the little-known Justice Department lawyer as attorney general, prompting several aides to threaten resignation in protest.

Meadows was also serving in his capacity as White House chief of staff at the time of the insurrection on Jan. 6.

Adam Schiff
House Select Committee member Adam Schiff, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

Trump has attempted to assert executive privilege over documents and interviews sought by the Select Committee as part of their investigation into his activities during the attack on Congress and in the days and weeks leading up to it. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., issued a ruling rejecting Trump’s lawsuit claiming executive privilege over White House records requested by the committee, but a federal appeals court agreed to temporarily halt the documents’ release. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is slated to hear oral arguments on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the case, which could eventually be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.