Lawyer who aided Trump subpoenaed by Jan. 6 committee
WASHINGTON(AP) — A House committee investigating the Jan.6 riot at Washington’s Capitol issued a subpoena for a former Justice Department lawyer. He was positioned as an ally to Donald Trump and aided his efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. The subpoena for Jeffrey Clark was revealed Wednesday amid a growing congressional investigation. The committee has subpoenaed at least three people involved in the organizing and running of the violent riot. The demands for documents and testimony by Clark are a result of the committee’s attempts to investigate not only the deadly insurrection, but also the turmoil that rocked the Justice Department in weeks leading up to it. Trump and his allies relied on government lawyers to support their baseless claims about the fraudulent results. In an attempt to stop the congressional approval of Democrat Joe Biden’s win, Trump loyalists believed that the election had been stolen and stormed the Capitol.
Clark is a key character in this saga. The Senate report last week shows that Clark was an assistant attorney general in Trump’s campaign to reverse the election results. He clashed with Justice Department superiors, who refused to comply with the pressure. This culminated in a dramatic White House meeting where Trump discussed the possibility of elevating Clark to the position.
“The Select Committee has found credible evidence that your attempts to involve the Department of Justice to disrupt the peaceful transfer of powers,” Bennie Thompson, a Democratic Representative from Mississippi, wrote to Clark in a letter announcing the subpoena. Although Trump did not appoint Clark as acting attorney general, Thompson said that Clark’s efforts “risked involving Justice in actions lacking evidentiary foundations and threatened to undermine the rule of law.”
The committee has requested documents by Oct. 29, and scheduled a deposition. Clark’s lawyer declined to comment.
The Jan. 6 panel sought testimony from a wide cast of witnesses. However, its demands for Trump aides or associates could be complicated by Trump’s pledge to prevent them cooperating on executive privilege grounds.
Steve Bannon has already told the panel that he won’t cooperate with Trump’s directive. However, lawmakers said they were “engaging” with Kashyap Patel and Mark Meadows, former chief of staff at Trump’s White House. It is not clear whether Dan Scavino (Trump’s long-serving social media director and loyal aide) will cooperate.
Biden officially rejected Trump’s executive privilege claim regarding a tranche of documents that were requested by the White House during his time there. They set up the release of the documents to Congress in mid November. White House counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released Wednesday that Biden believes that “an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States.”
Others, though, are cooperating, including some of the 11 who organized or staffed the Trump rally that preceded the riot. They were given Wednesday deadline to turn in documents and records and they were also asked to appear at the separate depositions that the committee has scheduled.
Lyndon Brentnall was one of the respondents. His firm was contracted to provide security for that day’s event. He told The Associated Press that he had handed over all documents and communications required by the subpoena.
Brentnall previously stated that his company had “every intention” to comply. He stated that “as far as I’m concerned, we ran security for a legally allowed event run in conjunction avec the U.S. Secret Service et the Park Police.”
Two Trump campaign staffers and long-time White House staffers, Megan Powers (listed on the Jan. 6 rally permit as “operations manger for scheduling and guidance”) and Hannah Salem (operations manager logistics and communications), have either provided or planned to provide documents.
Powers was the director of operations for Trump’s reelection campaign. She intends to provide documentation and meet with the committee. However, it is unclear how such meetings will be conducted, according to someone who spoke under anonymity.
Many of those who marched up to the Capitol Jan. 6 after having attended at least part Trump’s rally where he reiterated his meritless claims about election fraud and urged the crowd to fight like hell .”
The results of the election were confirmed and upheld in court by state officials. William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, stated that the Justice Department had not found any evidence of widespread fraud which could have overturned these results.
It is unclear if the other subpoenaed will cooperate. Wednesday’s statement from the committee did not provide any information on the responses received or the number of 11 who were cooperating.
Members, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney (the panel’s Republican vice-chairwoman), have threatened criminal contempt charges against witnesses who refuse to comply with subpoenaed. The Justice Department would decide whether to pursue the charges if there is a House vote.
The subpoena to Clark comes after the release of last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee report which documented extraordinary tensions in the Justice Department’s senior ranks in December and January, as Trump and his aides pushed the agency to aid him in undoing his election. The report by the Democratic majority of the committee shows Clark as a tireless advocate for Trump’s efforts inside the building. He even presented colleagues with a draft letter urging Georgia officials to convene an extraordinary legislative session on the election results. Clark requested that the letter be sent but Justice Department superiors refused to allow it.
” We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts by the Justice Department, and who was involved across administration,” Thompson wrote.
Two other rally organizers, Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, along with their “Stop the Steal” organization were also subpoenaed to obtain documents. They are due Oct. 21.
Alexander posted in Telegram Monday that the Select Committee was “subpoenaing persons in bad faith .”
“So maybe, this Select Committee is fake?” he said. “Everyone is waiting to see what I’ll do.”
Colvin reported from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. This report was contributed by Zeke Miller, Washington Associated Press writer.