DOJ issues warnings to states on voting laws and audits
The Department of Justice took aim Wednesday at post-election audits and a flurry of voting laws passed after the 2020 elections, warning states some of their actions may run afoul of the law.The two new guidances released by the department follow a commitment from Attorney General Merrick Garland in June to offer states a refresher on legal obligations as DOJ ramps up its enforcement of voting rights statutes.The guidance on post-electionThe two new guidances released by the department follow a commitment from Attorney General Merrick Garland in June to offer states a refresher on legal obligations as DOJ ramps up its enforcement of voting rights statutes.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection will vote on pursuing contempt charges against a former Justice Department official Wednesday as the committee aggressively seeks to gain answers about the violent attack by former President Donald Trump's supporters. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark speaks as he stands next to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Oct. 21, 2020. The House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection will vote on pursuing contempt charges against Clark Wednesday, Dec. 1 as the committee aggressively seeks to gain answers about the violent attack by former President Donald Trump's supporters. (Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP, File)
The vote to pursue contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who aligned with Trump as he tried to overturn his election defeat, comes as Trump's top aide at the time, chief of staff Mark Meadows, has agreed to cooperate with the panel on a limited basis. Clark appeared for a deposition last month but refused to answer any questions based on Trump’s legal efforts to block the committee’s investigation.
Takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee hearing: Police accounts of Capitol attack made for an emotional day
The nearly four-hour hearing Tuesday offered a harrowing account of officers beaten unconscious, tear-gassed, and taunted with racial epithets.The nearly four-hour hearing offered a harrowing account of officers beaten unconscious, tear-gassed, taunted with racial epithets and attacked with the American flag by protesters who were spurred by former President Donald Trump's false claims of a stolen election.
If approved by the panel, the recommendation of criminal contempt charges against Clark would go to the full House for a vote as soon as Thursday. If the House votes to hold Clark in contempt, the Justice Department would then decide whether to prosecute.
The panel has vowed to aggressively seek charges against any witness who doesn’t comply as they investigate the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries. The Justice Department has signaled it is willing to pursue those charges, indicting longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon earlier this month on two federal counts of criminal contempt.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said then that Bannon’s indictment reflects the department’s “steadfast commitment” to the rule of law after Bannon outright defied the committee and refused to cooperate.
Jan. 6 investigators prepare to hold former Trump admin official in contempt
Jeffrey Clark would be the second figure in the former president's orbit to face a contempt referral so far during the investigation, after Steve Bannon.The House’s panel investigating the Capitol attack is poised to target Jeffrey Clark, who helmed the Justice Department’s environmental division during Trump’s presidency. If the full House greenlights the move, Clark will become the second person referred to the Justice Department on contempt charges for refusing to comply with the probe — after ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Clark’s case could be more complicated since he did appear for his deposition and, unlike Bannon, was a Trump administration official on Jan. 6. But members of the committee argued that Clark had no basis to refuse questioning, especially since they intended to ask about matters that didn't involve direct interactions with Trump and wouldn't fall under the former president's claims of executive privilege.
In a transcript of Clark's aborted Nov. 5 interview, released by the panel on Tuesday evening, staff and members of the committee attempted to persuade Clark to answer questions about his role as Trump pushed the Justice Department to investigate his false allegations of widespread fraud in the election. Clark had aligned himself with the former president as other Justice officials pushed back on the baseless claims.
But Clark's attorney, Harry MacDougald, said during the interview that Clark was not only protected by Trump's assertions of executive privilege, but also several other privileges MacDougald said Clark should be afforded. The committee rejected those arguments, and MacDougald and Clark walked out of the interview after around 90 minutes.
Jan. 6 committee to hold contempt vote for Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark
On Monday, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol scheduled a Wednesday vote to pursue criminal contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a Trump Justice Department official who assisted the former president in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The committee issued a subpoena to Clark back in October seeking testimony and records related to those efforts. Earlier this month, Clark appeared for a deposition before the panel but declined to answer substantive questions, citing Trump’s ongoing lawsuit to block congressional investigators from accessing his White House records.
According to a report earlier this year by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which interviewed several of Clark's colleagues, Trump's pressure culminated in a dramatic White House meeting at which the president ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general. He did not do so after several aides threatened to resign.
Despite Trump’s false claims about a stolen election — the primary motivation for the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory — the results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by the courts. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the results.
Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” the morning of Jan. 6, has sued to block the committee’s work and has attempted to assert executive privilege over documents and interviews, arguing that his conversations and actions at the time should be shielded from public view.
Clark is one of more than 40 people the committee has subpoenaed so far. The panel’s chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, wrote in Clark’s subpoena that the committee’s probe “has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power” and his efforts “risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law.”
Judges Suggest Trump's Executive Privilege Claim May Upset WH's Relationship With Congress
To date, Trump has made at least four assertions of executive privilege since leaving office in an attempt to block the release of sensitive information."We only have one president at a time under our Constitution," Patricia Millett, one of the three judges on the panel, said on Tuesday. "That incumbent president... has made the judgment and is best positioned, as the Supreme Court has told us, to make that call as to the interests of the executive branch.
© Provided by Associated Press Capitol Breach Contempt
After Clark refused to answer questions, Thompson said it was “astounding that someone who so recently held a position of public trust to uphold the Constitution would now hide behind vague claims of privilege by a former President, refuse to answer questions about an attack on our democracy, and continue an assault on the rule of law.”
A lawyer for Meadows, George Terwilliger, said Tuesday that he was continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a potential accommodation that would not require Meadows to waive the executive privileges claimed by Trump or “forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress.”
Terwilliger said in a statement that “we appreciate the Select Committee’s openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics.” He had previously said that Meadows wouldn’t comply with the panel’s September subpoena because of Trump’s privilege claims.
Thompson said that Meadows has provided documents to the panel and will soon sit for a deposition, but that the committee “will continue to assess his degree of compliance."
Under the tentative agreement, Meadows could potentially decline to answer the panel’s questions about his most sensitive conversations with Trump and what Trump was doing on Jan. 6.
Still, Meadows’ intention to work with the panel is a victory for the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the committee, especially as they seek interviews with lower-profile witnesses who may have important information to share. The panel has so far subpoenaed more than 40 witnesses and interviewed more than 150 people behind closed doors.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
Mark Meadows sues Jan. 6 committee after panel vows contempt proceedings .
Former President Donald Trump's one-time chief of staff is refusing to cooperate with the committee, reversing an earlier decision to engage.In the lawsuit, which names members of the Jan. 6 committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as defendants, Meadows asked the court to invalidate two “overly broad” and “unduly burdensome” subpoenas that he said the panel issued without legal authority.