The House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as an ally of Donald Trump and aided the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
The subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, revealed Wednesday, came amid signs of an escalating congressional inquiry. At least three of the officials who were involved in organizing the rally that preceded the riot have handed over documents in response to subpoenas from the committee.
The demands for documents and testimony from Clark reflect the committee’s efforts to probe not only the deadly insurrection but also events at the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to it as Trump and his allies leaned on government lawyers to advance his baseless claims that the election results were fraudulent. Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory
Clark, an assistant attorney general in the Trump administration, has emerged as a pivotal character. A Senate committee report issued last week shows how he championed Trump’s efforts to undo the election results inside the Justice Department and clashed as a result with superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a White House meeting at which Trump floated the idea of elevating Clark to attorney general.
“The Select Committee’s investigation has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the chairman of the committee, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, wrote in a letter to Clark announcing the subpoena.
While Trump ultimately did not appoint Clark acting attorney general, Clark’s “efforts risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” Thompson added.
The committee has scheduled a deposition for October 29 and demanded documents by the same date. A lawyer for Clark declined to comment.
The January 6 panel has sought testimony from a number of witnesses, but its demands of Trump aides and associates are potentially complicated by Trump’s vow to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.
One witness, Steve Bannon, has told the committee that he will not cooperate based on Trump’s directive, though the committee has said it was “engaging” with two other Trump officials — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel. It is unclear whether Dan Scavino, Trump’s longtime social media director and one of his most loyal aides, will cooperate.
Others are cooperating, including some of the 11 who organized or staffed the Trump rally that preceded the riot. They were given a Wednesday deadline to turn over documents and records and have been asked to appear at separate depositions the committee has scheduled beginning this month.
Among those responding to the Wednesday deadline was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide event security that day.
“All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in,” he told The Associated Press.
Two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were listed on the January 6 rally permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications,” have also provided documents or are planning to do so.
Powers, who served as the Trump reelection campaign’s director of operations, intends to provide the requested documentation and to meet with the committee — though it remains unclear what form such meetings will take, according to a person familiar with her response who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Members of the committee, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chairwoman, have threatened to pursue criminal contempt charges against subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to comply. A House vote would send those charges to the Department of Justice, which would then decide whether to prosecute.
The subpoena to Clark follows the release of a Senate Judiciary Committee report that documented extraordinary tensions within the senior ranks of the Justice Department in December and January as Trump and his allies prodded the law enforcement agency to help him in undoing the election.
The report from the committee’s Democratic majority depicts Clark as a relentless advocate for Trump’s efforts, even presenting colleagues with a draft letter pushing Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on the election results. Clark wanted the letter sent, but superiors at the Justice Department refused.
“We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration,” Thompson wrote.
Two additional organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as their “Stop the Steal” organization, were also subpoenaed for documents, which are due October 21.