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Jan. 6 panel: Former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark fails to cooperate in testimony

File photo of former Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. He appeared for a deposition with the Jan. 6 select Committee on Nov. 5, 2021.
File photo of former Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. He appeared for a deposition with the Jan. 6 select Committee on Nov. 5, 2021.

The Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol issued a scathing statement saying ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark appeared before the panel on Friday but failed to cooperate.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Clark failed to answer questions from the panel about former President Trump and efforts to get the Justice Department to investigate false 2020 election claims. Thompson noted that Clark's former DOJ supervisors have appeared before panel.

Clark exerted claims of legal privilege to avoid answering of the panel's questions. Thompson said if Clark does not reverse course, the committee may take action against him.

"I have considered Mr. Clark's claim of privilege and rejected it," Thompson said in a statement late Friday. "He has a very short time to reconsider and cooperate fully. We need the information that he is withholding and we are willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation."

Clark and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his previous role, Clark promised to pursue former President Trump's false election fraud claims. He was also a key figure in a recent Senate report detailing Trump's attempts to enlist the department in his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

For example, the report said Clark had proposed delivery of a letter to Georgia state lawmakers and others to push for a delay in certifying election results. Clark also recommended holding a press conference announcing the Justice Department was investigating allegations of voter fraud despite a lack of evidence.

Thompson said Clark's actions on Friday were "unacceptable."

"His refusal to answer questions about the former President's attempt to use the Department of Justice to overturn the election is in direct contrast to his supervisors at the Department," Thompson said. "It's 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."

The panel's consideration of taking further steps against Clark comes more than two weeks after the House approved a referral for a criminal contempt of Congress charge against former Trump strategist Steve Bannon for defying a congressional subpoena.

So far, the committee has met with about 150 witnesses, including informal interviews and depositions. The committee has not yet publicly identified those who have cooperated.

Subpoenas have been issued for Bannon and three other former Trump officials, plus members of a right-wing group and another tied to other organizers behind the rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Those followed requests to dozens of social media and tech companies to preserve and turn over records, along with several federal agencies. The panel has said it has received "thousands of pages of documents."

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