From the first I read of Jeffrey Clark I felt a real animus towards him. He immediately reminded me of Edmund the villainous, ambitious and opportunist bastard son of the earl of Gloucester in King Lear. Like Edmund, Clark seemed willing to do whatever it tool to advance his own career, even if it meant harming others. Both present as skilled manipulators who are able to convince others to do their bidding. Where Edmund wanted to be legitimized and inherit his father's title and fortune, Clark wanted to be appointed Attorney General and help Trump overturn the results of the election. And both are ruthless— with no sense of shame in achieving their goals, Edmund betraying his father and brother and Clark subverting the rule of law and undermining democracy. Both Edmund and Clark resent others who are more successful than them. Edmund resents his legitimate younger brother, Edgar, and Clark resents other Justice Department officials who are not as loyal to Trump as he is.
Trump and Clark wanted to make Clark head of the Justice Department in 2021 so they could use it to steal the election. He made a big deal about backing Trump's Big Lie. He pressured state officials to overturn the results of the election and met with Trump to discuss ways to subvert the results. On January 3, 2021, Trump asked Clark to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen as the head of DOJ. Clark agreed, and he prepared a draft letter to state legislatures instructing them to appoint alternate electors who would vote for Trump in the Electoral College. However, virtually all the other senior Justice Department officials threatened to resign if Trump went through with it; he ultimately backed down, and Clark remained as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. He resigned from his position on January 17, 2021, shortly before Trump left office.
Clark's attempt to take over the Justice Department was a serious threat to American democracy. He was willing to put Trump's personal interests ahead of the interests of the country. He showed a complete disregard for the rule of law and the principles of American democracy.
He’s in trouble now— one of Trump’s Georgia co-defendants— because he drafted a letter to top Georgia officials declaring that the Department of Justice had reason to doubt the legitimacy of the state’s election only after he was pressed to do so by Trump. Pressed to do so by Trump? That’s a new attitude. Have his lawyers persuaded him to turn on Trump?
Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey reported yesterday that District Judge SteveJones “seemed skeptical.” But Clark’s attorney, Harry MacDougald argued that this is why Clark’s trial should be moved to federal court. “They say he was acting outside of his lane,” MacDougald said. “The president put it in his lane.”
Jones asked for evidence. MacDougald had none and “even appeared uncertain when Jones asked him whether Clark’s draft letter was written after a meeting between him, Trump and several other senior Justice Department officials. MacDougald described how Clark drafted the letter in his office at the Justice Department and used his DOJ email to send the document. He said it would be ‘simply impossible’ for Clark to do what he is charged with if he were not acting as a federal official and said Trump had ‘ratified’ his client’s conduct.
Clark’s sworn declaration, filed on the court docket on Sept. 14, did not appear to corroborate MacDougald’s claim in court Monday that Trump directed Clark’s actions.
Clark has been charged with two counts in the sprawling indictment, which accuses the 19 defendants of participating in a criminal conspiracy to steal the 2020 election. In addition to being charged with violating Georgia’s anti-racketeering law, Clark was also accused of attempting to create a false statement— a reference to his draft letter, which falsely claimed that the Justice Department was investigating irregularities in Georgia and encouraged state officials to send alternate slates of pro-Trump electors to Congress. DOJ leaders balked, and the letter was never sent.
…Monday’s hearing was in federal court, where Clark, along with four other defendants in the Georgia case, are seeking to move their cases, claiming that he was acting as a federal officer. They are seeking removal under a federal law that allows people charged with crimes while carrying out their official duties to be prosecuted in federal court, even in cases involving state law and state prosecutors.
…Among the reasons Clark might want his case tried in federal rather than state court are a slightly more Republican jury pool, a denial of the prosecutorial team’s home-field advantage in Fulton County Superior Court, where they and the judges know each other and where the trial will be governed by familiar state, not federal, procedures, as well as a potentially quicker path to dismissal on the grounds that he is immune from prosecution as a federal officer.
Jones denied Mark Meadow’s claim earlier this month, finding that the actions “at the heart of the State’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with the ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.” Meadows has appealed that decision.
…Jones’s opinion in the Meadows case could bode poorly for Clark, who was described by former senior Justice Department officials in a hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as “completely incompetent” and guilty of currying favor with then-president Trump to become the next attorney general.
Prosecutors have made the case that Clark was operating far outside of his duties when he became involved in helping Trump reverse his defeat in the fall of 2020. They called to the stand Jody Hunt, a former longtime Justice Department official who preceded Clark as head of the civil division.
Hunt, who joined the DOJ in 1999 and also served as a chief of staff to Jeff Sessions when he was attorney general, left the agency in 2020 and was later among a group of attorneys who challenged efforts by the Trump campaign to overturn the 2020 election, including in Georgia.
Hunt repeatedly testified the civil division did not engage in matters involving election interference or voter fraud. He said if the Justice Department did engage in any investigations or litigation, that it would have been taken up by the agency’s criminal or civil rights division.
“It was not the civil division’s role,” he said.
Hunt, now general counsel at a private college in Alabama, also testified about strict protocols that limit communications between the White House and Justice Department officials, telling the judge it was department policy for the president and any other White House official to communicate only with the attorney general, deputy attorney general and associate attorney general.
The policy was put into place “to avoid situations” where a White House official might ask a Justice Department employee to do something that did not fall in line with their duties, Hunt testified.
Prosecutors also took issue with several aspects of Clark’s defense, noting that he had provided little evidence that Trump had instructed him to act. MacDougald, his lawyer, also claimed that Clark had broad authority to enforce federal laws— but prosecutors noted that he did not say what law Clark was enforcing.
…Clark’s role in the alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 results is vividly documented in the federal indictment of Trump.
The indictment identifies Clark only as “Co-Conspirator 4,” but it includes details that match existing reporting about Clark’s post-election role. It portrays him as a linchpin of plans to bypass the acting attorney general and use the imprimatur of the Justice Department to spread “knowingly false claims of election fraud” and deceitfully substitute legitimate electors with sham alternates supporting Trump.
Clark circumvented department leadership to speak with Trump multiple times in late December and early January, according to the federal indictment.
After the Justice Department officials refused to sign his draft letter, the indictment states, Clark “tried to coerce” them into signing the letter by saying that Trump was offering to make him acting attorney general. Clark accepted that offer on Jan. 3, 2021, according to the indictment.
The machinations led to a dramatic showdown in the Oval Office on the evening of Jan. 3, when Trump balked, retreating from his plan to promote Clark, after being warned that Justice Department leaders and White House lawyers would resign en masse.
Richard Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general at the time, testified before the House Jan. 6 committee that he was unequivocal about his opposition to Clark become attorney general when Trump inquired about it.
“Suppose I do this. Suppose I replace him, Jeff Rosen, with him, Jeff Clark, what would you do?” Donoghue recalled Trump asking him. “And I said, ‘Mr. President, we resign immediately. I’m not working one minute for this guy who I just declared was completely incompetent.’”
Trump then wavered about appointing Clark attorney general. The promotion never happened.
In the Georgia indictment, Clark is also described as taking a call on Jan. 2, 2021, from Scott Hall, another co-defendant in the case and a longtime bail bondsman from the Atlanta area who actively chased claims of election fraud on Trump’s behalf in the weeks following the 2020 election. Hall and Clark spoke for 63 minutes, according to the indictment, and appeared to carry weight. Clark would later cite the conversation as he sought to use Justice Department authority to delegitimize the Georgia election, according to testimony and notes from congressional investigators.
In his removal case, Clark claimed that to cite the phone call as an act in furtherance of a conspiracy, as Willis does in the Georgia indictment, is a flagrant violation of Clark’s 1st Amendment speech protections. He also said it violates Hall’s 1st Amendment right to petition government “for redress of grievances.”
The call did not come up at Monday’s hearing.