WASHINGTON – The House committee responsible for investigating the January 6 uprising on Capitol Hill postponed a statement on Saturday with a former Justice Ministry official because of a “state of health which prevents his participation”, according to a panel spokesperson.
The committee had scheduled the second interview with Jeffrey Clark, who aligned with former President Donald Trump last year as he tried to reverse his defeat, after Clark refused to answer questions in his first deposition in November. The panel voted on Wednesday to recommend contempt charges against Clark, but said it would delay the House-wide vote and give it a second try.
Timothy Mulvey, a spokesperson for the committee, said Clark’s testimony was postponed until December 16.
“Through his lawyer, Mr. Clark informed the select committee of a health issue that prevents him from attending tomorrow’s meeting and he provided ample evidence of his claim,” Mulvey said in a press release on Friday evening.
The former Justice Department official met with Trump before the violent insurgency and unsuccessfully pushed his then supervisors to publicly announce that the department was investigating electoral fraud and ordered some state legislatures to appoint new voters, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report released earlier this year.
The report says Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department resulted in a dramatic White House meeting in which the president brooded over Clark’s rise to attorney general. Trump did not do so after several aides threatened to resign, but he continued to push the baseless fraud allegations that were repeated by the violent mob of his supporters as they barged into Capitol Hill and interrupted the certification of the victory of President Joe Biden.
Clark’s attorney informed the committee this week, just before the contempt vote, that his client now wishes to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This happened after Clark initially refused to answer questions based on Trump’s executive privilege claims and various other privileges his lawyer claimed he should enjoy.
Chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said Clark had offered “no specific basis” for asserting the 5th Amendment and viewed it as a “last minute attempt to delay work of the select committee “. but said members would hear him. The committee wants Clark to plead the Fifth Amendment question by question, unlike his first testimony when he and his attorney are suddenly gone.
If the committee decides after the deposition that Clark is still in contempt of the summons, the House could vote on the contempt charges soon after. The Ministry of Justice would then decide to prosecute.
Clark is the second person the committee voted in contempt. The House voted in October to recommend charges against Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon after he defied a subpoena and the Justice Department charged him with two counts of criminal contempt.
Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” on the morning of the riots, filed a lawsuit to block the committee’s work and tried to assert executive privilege over documents and interviews, arguing that his private conversations and actions at the time should be hidden from public view.
Despite Trump’s false claims of a stolen election – the main motivation behind the violent mob that stormed onto Capitol Hill and interrupted Biden’s certification of victory – the results were confirmed by state officials and confirmed by the courts.
Trump’s own attorney general William Barr said in December 2020 that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have affected the results.
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