Jan. 6 Committee Threatens ‘Strong Measures’ To Force Testimony From Ex-DOJ Official Who Allegedly Backed Trump’s Fraud Claims

Jeffrey Clark, a Trump-era Department of Justice official, was allegedly refusing to testify to the House panel investigating the January 6th riot. This prompted the committee to threaten him with being held accountable.

Jeff Clark speaks at a news conference held by the Justice Department on September 14, 2020. POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Key Facts

Clark's lawyer informed the January 6 committee that his client couldn't answer questions in a deposition. Politico and other outlets reported that Clark was not allowed to answer those questions, even though Clark was subpoenaed last month by lawmakers. Clark claimed that Clark's communications with Donald Trump could be protected by attorney-client privilege as well as executive privilege. Trump invoked this legal doctrine to allow presidents to keep certain records secret. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss. The chair of the select committees, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), called Clark's decision unacceptable. He rejected what he called vague claims to privilege in a statement. Thompson asked Clark to reconsider his decision and cooperate with the probe. He warned that he is willing to take tough measures to hold Clark accountable.

What to Watch

Thompson did not specify what strong measures he was considering against Clark. However, he said that a contempt of Congress charge is being considered. Although this is often time-consuming, Congress can file a civil suit and request a judge to force witnesses into testifying.

Important Quote

Former President Trump was entitled to confidential advice from lawyers like Mr. Clark while he was in office. Mr. Clark is therefore subject to a sacred trustone which is especially vital to constitutional separation of powers. Clark's attorney, Harry MacDougald wrote to the January 6 committee, obtained by Politico.

Chief Critic

Thompson made a statement that it was astonishing that someone who had just held a position in public trust to uphold Constitutional principles would now try to hide behind claims of privilege by a former president, refuse to answer questions regarding an attack on democracy, and continue to assault the rule of law.


MacDougald encouraged members of the January 6 committee not to request Clarks testimony until the matter is settled in a Trump-related lawsuit. The suit rebuffs lawmakers' attempts to obtain a trove Trump-era executive branch records. It also cites the Biden administrations decision to not withhold them. They claim that those documents are protected under executive privilege and were requested as part of a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition.

Important Background

A range of Trump administration officials were subpoenaed by the committee on January 6. They sought information about both the Capitol Riot and false vote-rigging claims for months. The panel requested testimony from Clark because the ex-head of the DOJs civil section was implicated in attempts to overturn the 2020 election. A Senate Judiciary Committee report states that Clark encouraged Jeffrey Rosen, Trump's former Attorney General, to launch a post-election investigation into voter fraud. Clark also allegedly pushed for the DOJ to issue a letter asking Georgia state officials (which Biden won) to take any necessary action due to alleged voting irregularities.

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Trump DOJ official, who helped effort to reverse election declines to answer Jan.6 questions (Politico).