Trump-appointed DOJ official claimed Chinese thermostats changed votes, reports say

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Jeff Clark, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (Susan Walsh/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeff Clark, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (Susan Walsh/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A Donald Trump-appointed lawyer at the Justice Department claimed to senior officials there that China may have used special thermostats to tamper with ballots in the US election, according to reports.

As Congress gathers testimonies and evidence in its probe of the fatal insurrection at the Capitol, Jeffrey Clark – an environmental lawyer described as unassuming and cerebral by colleagues and in reports – is emerging as something of a figure of note in the saga of the 45th president’s attempts to subvert democracy.

With acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue providing a closed-door testimony to the House Judiciary Committee this week, new information further illustrates the lengths to which Mr Trump and his supporters appear to have been willing to go to overturn the election result.

Despite attorney general William Barr having defied Mr Trump to publicly declare on 1 December that his Justice Department had found no evidence of voter fraud on a scale which could have tipped the election result, efforts to bend the department to the former president’s will seem to have intensified in the weeks that followed, in the wake of Mr Barr’s resignation on 15 December.

According to an email obtained by the House Oversight Committee, published by ABC News and corroborated by CNN, Mr Clark wrote to his superiors – Mr Donoghue and the newly acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen – on 28 December.

His email included a letter he had drafted, to be signed by Mr Donoghue, Mr Rosen and himself, urging Georgia's governor and other top officials to convene a special session of the state legislature to investigate claims of voter fraud, following an audit the previous month which reaffirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

According to the emails published this week, both recipients flatly refused to sign his draft letter, which also falsely claimed that Justice Department investigations had identified “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states”.

CNN also cited people briefed on the matter as saying that Mr Clark told senior DOJ officials that he knew of sensitive information indicating Chinese intelligence used special kinds of thermometers to change results in machines counting votes.

The news organisation reported that Mr Rosen in fact granted Mr Clark his request for a briefing led by the Director of National Intelligence, Mr Ratcliffe – allegedly in the hope it would stem his baseless claims of voter fraud – in which he was shown classified findings which showed there was no evidence that foreign interference had affected vote tallies.

Mr Clark’s email appears to have been sent a day after a call between Mr Trump, Mr Rosen and Mr Donoghue, according to the reports.

According to Mr Donoghue’s handwritten notes of the call, provided to the House Oversight Committee, Mr Trump had urged them: “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”

Furthermore, according to a New York Times report from January, Mr Clark then met with the outgoing president the following weekend – days before Congress was set to formally certify Mr Biden’s victory. The pair are alleged by The Times to have plotted to oust Mr Rosen, the acting attorney general.

The Independent has approached Mr Clark for comment. He has previously categorically denied devising any plan to oust Mr Rosen, as well as making any recommendations based on false information from the internet.

“My practice is to rely on sworn testimony to assess disputed factual claims,” he told The Times, adding of his meeting the weekend before the insurrection: “There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president.

“It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions.”

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