A former Justice Department official and steadfast Donald Trump ally is being hit with ethics charges for his plot to use the department to try to throw out legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump considered making Jeffrey Clark — a former environmental lawyer in the DOJ’s Civil Division — acting attorney general after William Barr quit so that Clark could go forward with a plan to manipulate the election results.
Clark wrote a draft letter on Dec. 28, 2020, which then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone called a “murder-suicide pact.” It made false claims that the Justice Department had discovered election fraud in several states.
Clark also outlined a plot to arrange for state legislatures to send fake electors to Congress to disrupt certification of the legitimate vote, which Joe Biden had won, according to a document filed Tuesday by the District of Columbia Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Hamilton P. Fox III, the disciplinary counsel for the D.C. Bar, has charged Clark with attempting to engage in dishonest conduct and “conduct that would seriously interfere with the administration of justice” for his actions, according to the filing.
Clark’s draft letter was addressed to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and a number of federal lawmakers.
Clark repeatedly pressured Jeffrey Rosen, who was then acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, to sign and send the letter, according to the bar complaint. Donoghue and Rosen both refused and threatened to quit if the letter was sent, and they warned at a Jan. 3 meeting that there would be mass resignations if it came to that.
“That letter that this guy [Clark] wants to send — that letter is a murder-suicide pact,” Cipollone told Trump, according to a transcript of Donoghue’s interview with the House select committee investigating the actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. “It’s going to damage everyone who touches it. And we should have nothing to do with that letter.”
But Trump wanted to know: “What do I have to lose? If I do this, what do I have to lose?’” Donoghue recounted to members of the Jan. 6 panel.
Donoghue said he replied: “Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose. Is this really how you want your administration to end? You’re going to hurt the country.”
Donoghue also attacked Clark, who wanted Trump to name him attorney general, as someone who was woefully unqualified for the post and who was grabbing half-baked election fraud theories off the internet to butter up Trump.
“He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He’s never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury,” Donoghue said he told Trump.
To Clark he said derisively, according to Donoghue’s deposition: “How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”
Federal law enforcement authorities searched Clark’s Virginia home last month. He sat for a deposition with the House panel in January but cut it short. After the House select committee then voted to hold Clark in contempt of Congress, he later appeared before the panel but repeatedly asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, CNN reported. His testimony has not been released.
Clark could not immediately be reached for comment. But a spokesperson for the Center for Renewing American, where Clark is a senior fellow, called him a “hero” for attempting to throw out American voters’ choice for president.
“This is the latest attack on the legal qualifications of one of the only lawyers at the DOJ who had the interests of the American people at heart,” said spokesperson Rachel Semmel.
Clark has 20 days to respond to the accusations, according to the filing Friday. He and his lawyers can present evidence in his defense and cross-examine witnesses. If he loses, he could be stripped of his law license.