Former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark has been going through some things. It began Wednesday morning, when the FBI banged on his door just before 7am, searching the environmental attorney’s home and confiscating his electronic devices.
Presumably the warrant had something to do with Clark’s effort to enlist the Justice Department in an effort to overturn President Biden’s electoral victory by getting slates of fraudulent electors certified. And by sheer coincidence — or not! — that effort was the subject of the January 6 Select Committee’s three-hour hearing yesterday afternoon.
In brief, Clark, who headed the Environmental Division, presented acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his Principal Deputy Richard Donoghue with a draft letter on December 28, 2020 addressed to officials in Georgia. The letter, which he described as a “proof of concept” that he hoped to send to other swing states, announced a federal investigation into electoral fraud in Georgia and recommended that the legislature reconvene to reconsider whether it ought to recast the state’s electoral votes for Donald Trump.
In fact, the DOJ had investigated claims of rampant electoral fraud in Georgia, and found them unsubstantiated. Put simply, there was no fraud, and there was no pending investigation. Rosen and Donoghue told Clark in no uncertain terms that they weren’t going to send the letter and castigated him for secretly back channeling with the White House — a massively inappropriate violation of protocol. But Clark, who had been doing his own research on the internet, convinced himself that the election had been rigged, perhaps by dint of Chinese thermostats or Italian space lasers.
As Donoghue and Rosen testified yesterday, the matter came to a head in a January 3 Oval Office meeting, after Clark announced that Trump was going to give him Rosen’s job so he could weaponize the DOJ to thwart Biden’s electoral certification on January 6. The president was only talked out of the move after Rosen, Donoghue, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Senior Advisor Eric Herschmann, and Office of Legal Counsel head Steve Engel threatened to resign, and take hundreds of Justice Department lawyers with them.
As Donoghue testified, he delivered the killing blow by pointing out that Clark was never going to be able to do what Trump wanted anyway, since he’d never tried a criminal case or shepherded one through a grand jury process, much less managed an agency with upwards of 100,000 employees.
“I said, ‘That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill?’” Donoghue said.
“Congratulations. You just admitted your first step or act that you take as attorney general would be committing a felony,” Herschmann said in his videotaped deposition, adding snarkily, “You’re clearly the right candidate for this job.”
Clark himself did not appear at the hearing, except in a brief taped cameo where he repeatedly asserted his right against self-incrimination. But he did show up later on Fox News with rightwing pundit Tucker Carlson, to bemoan his persecution.
“They dragged him into the street in his pajamas. What did Jeff Clark do wrong? Was he selling fentanyl? Was he human trafficking on the Mexican border?” Carlson demanded during the intro, echoing similar indignation he expressed when Trump’s econ crank got arrested, and he wondered how it was even legal to indict someone who did yoga and never sold drugs.
“Jeff Clark did not commit any crime,” Carlson insisted. “What he did wrong was calling for an investigation into voter fraud.”
Well … not exactly. He called for the Justice Department to announce a non-existent investigation into non-existent fraud. But anyway!
Carlson went on to accuse President Biden of stealing Clark’s cellphone and called the DOJ a “political instrument.” Which is bloody rich since his guest is accused of participating in a thwarted plot to corruptly turn the DOJ into a political instrument.
Clark, for his part, had lots of nasty things to say about actor Sean Penn being on hand for the hearing yesterday, “so you know this is Hollywood,” but very little comment on his former colleagues’ testimony. Instead, after a brief diversion to say that he’d once argued a case before Merrick Garland and would have won it, too, if the darn thing hadn’t settled, Clark returned to script to denounce the “politicized” DOJ.
“Increasingly, Tucker, I don’t recognize the country anymore with these kinds of Stasi things happening,” he tut-tutted.
“This is Stalinist,” Carlson agreed, furrowing his brow. “At some point, somebody’s gonna fight back and it’s going to get super ugly. I pray that it doesn’t happen but I think it probably will.”
Yeah, wouldn’t want it to get super ugly.
We at ATL had many LOLs when Peter Navarro jumped in front of a microphone to talk shit about the FBI and discuss his case. But Navarro isn’t a lawyer who spent his entire adult life toggling between Kirkland & Ellis and the Justice Department. Sure, the Supreme Court just blew up Miranda rights, but this genius does still have the right to remain silent.
If he wants to flap his yap, though, well … have at it, fella.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.