Jan. 6 panel postpones deposition with former DOJ official

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FILE - Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, on Sept. 14, 2020. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has postponed a deposition with Clark until Dec. 16 due to a "medical condition that precludes his participation." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON – The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has postponed a deposition with a former Justice Department official Saturday due to a “medical condition that precludes his participation," according to a panel spokesman.

The committee had scheduled the second interview with Jeffrey Clark, who had aligned himself with former President Donald Trump last year as he tried to overturn his defeat, after Clark declined to answer questions at his first deposition in November. The panel voted Wednesday to recommend contempt charges against Clark but said it would hold off on a vote of the full House and give him a second try.

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Timothy Mulvey, a spokesman for the committee, said Clark's deposition has been rescheduled for Dec. 16.

“Through his attorney, Mr. Clark has informed the Select Committee of a medical condition that precludes his participation in tomorrow’s meeting and he has provided ample evidence of his claim,” Mulvey said in a statement Friday evening.

The former Justice Department official met with Trump ahead of the violent insurrection and unsuccessfully pushed his then-supervisors to publicly announce that the department was investigating election fraud and direct certain state legislatures to appoint new electors, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report released earlier this year.

The report said that Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department culminated in a dramatic White House meeting at which the president ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general. Trump did not do so after several aides threatened to resign, but he continued to push the baseless claims of fraud that were repeated by the violent mob of his supporters as they broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

Clark's lawyer informed the committee this week, just ahead of the contempt vote, that his client now wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. That came after Clark had initially declined to answer questions based on Trump's claims of executive privilege and various other privileges his lawyer claimed he should be afforded.

The chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said Clark had offered “no specific basis" for asserting the 5th Amendment and that he viewed it as a “last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings” but said members would hear him out. The committee wants Clark to plead the Fifth Amendment on a question-by-question basis, unlike his first deposition when he and his lawyer abruptly left.

If the committee decides after the deposition that Clark is still in defiance of the subpoena, the House could vote on contempt charges soon afterward. The Justice Department would then decide whether to prosecute.

Clark is the second person the committee has voted to hold in contempt. The House voted in October to recommend charges against longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon after he defied a subpoena and the Justice Department indicted him on two counts of criminal contempt.

Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” on the morning of the rioting, has sued to block the committee’s work and has attempted to assert executive privilege over documents and interviews, arguing that his private conversations and actions at the time should be shielded from public view.

Despite Trump’s false claims about a stolen election — the primary motivation for the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory — the results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by the courts.

Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said in December 2020 that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the results.

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