Saturday, December 4, 2021

Former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clarke shortens testimony January 6

WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Assistant Attorney General who joined former President Donald Trump after he lost the 2020 election, refused to give a full interview to the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol uprising and ended his testimony about 90 minutes later on Friday. …

Jeffrey Clarke, who championed Trump’s efforts to cancel the election, presented the committee with a letter stating that he would not answer questions based on Trump’s claims of executive privileges, including in the current lawsuit, according to a person familiar with closed meeting. who has been granted anonymity to discuss this. Clark left an interview with his lawyer, who told reporters they were heading “home.”

Clark, who was summoned by the committee, did not answer any questions from the reporters when he left.

In a statement Friday night, committee member Benny Thompson, committee chair, confirmed that Clark refused to answer questions and said it was unacceptable. He said he had rejected claims of privilege and said that Clark had “very little time” to reconsider and cooperate.

“It’s amazing that someone who so recently held public confidence in support of the Constitution is now hiding behind the former president’s vague statements about privileges, refusing to answer questions about the attack on our democracy, and continuing to attack the power of the state. law, ”Thompson said.

Clark’s refusal is just the latest fallout from Trump’s attempt to assert his executive powers in a lawsuit he filed against the committee and the National Archives. The lawsuit aims to prevent the government from releasing parts of the White House’s internal documents, including call logs, draft remarks, speeches, and handwritten notes from employees before and during the uprising. President Joe Biden has so far relinquished executive privilege over nearly all of the documents requested by the committee, citing the need to investigate the attack.

Amid litigation, the House Commission has struggled to enlist the cooperation of some of Trump’s other top allies, including longtime associate Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, as it conducts a massive investigation out of the public eye. So far, the committee has interviewed more than 150 witnesses, according to two people familiar with the interviews who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss them.

The interviews covered a wide range of former and current executive officials, Trump campaign aides, law enforcement officials and others. The group also spoke to several people who helped organize a rally on the morning of January 6, at which Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell.”

Clark is one of nearly 20 people the committee has already summoned to court. A report released by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee last month details how he defended Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and as a result clashed with Justice Department officials who resisted pressure that culminated in a dramatic White House meeting in which Trump reflected on Clarke’s promotion to attorney general. He did not do so after several aides threatened to resign.

Thompson wrote on Clarke’s subpoena that the committee’s investigation “revealed credible evidence that you were trying to involve the Justice Department in efforts to interrupt a peaceful transfer of power,” and his efforts “risked involving the Justice Department in actions that lacked evidence and threatened to undermine the rule of law. law “.

It is unclear if the group will go so far as to accuse Clark of contempt of Congress, as they did with Bannon. Thompson said the committee needs information that Clark is hiding and is willing to “take drastic action” to bring him to justice.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to bring charges against Bannon, and now the Justice Department must decide whether to open a case.

By voting in contempt for Bannon, the commissioners, including two Republicans, made it clear that they would fight any claims of executive privilege that were designed over the years to protect the president’s private conversations and communications. Thompson said at the time that the commission would not be “deterred” by any such statements.

The federal judge hearing the case also appeared to have questioned Trump’s claims this week, expressing skepticism when Trump’s lawyers said the House of Representatives had no legislative purpose to obtain the documents.

“The January 6 riots took place in the Capitol,” said US District Judge Tanya Chutkan. “This is literally the home of Congress.”

The House Committee could bring similar charges of contempt to Meadows and former Trump administration aides Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, who have all actively discussed with the committee the possibility of testifying after being summoned to court.

Despite Trump’s false claims of a stolen election – the main motivation behind the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and disrupted eyewitness reports of Biden’s victory – the results were confirmed by government officials and backed by the court. Trump Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter the results.

Associated Press reporters Rick Gentilo and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.

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