Clark, however, has one more opportunity to appear in front of the committee on Saturday for a new deposition. Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the hearing that Clark informed the committee he “now intends to claim Fifth Amendment protection,” and that the panel is “willing to convene another deposition at which Clark can assert that privilege on a question-by-question basis.”
Thompson called Clark’s last-minute notice a “last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings.”
“The committee would certainly consider that we will not finalize his contempt process if Mr. Clark genuinely cures his failure to comply with the subpoena this Saturday,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a vice chair of the committee, said during the hearing.
This is the committee’s second contempt referral against an ally of former president Donald Trump — the Justice Department charged former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon on two counts of criminal contempt last month. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Clark, who served as acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division at the end of the Trump administration, refused to answer questions about the former president during a scheduled deposition Nov. 5, according to a copy of the transcript released by the committee. Clark’s lawyer, Harry MacDougald, presented the committee with a letter that objected to answering any questions or providing any records, arguing that Clark did not have to because Trump has asserted they are protected by executive privilege.
The committee’s interest in Clark stems from his efforts to get the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s false claims of election fraud. According to the transcript of the deposition, lawmakers intended to ask Clark about his communications and discussions with the former president, along with efforts by Trump to install him as acting attorney general.
“We then wanted to talk specifically about efforts that he took, proposed that the Department take with respect to election fraud,” said panel member Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), according to the transcript. “We wanted to ask him, for instance, about an [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] briefing that he sought about alleged interference with Dominion voting machines by the Chinese Government, and a draft letter to Georgia officials that he put forth that asked the Department, or was the Department asking Georgia legislative officials to convene a special session and consider the appointment of an alternate slate of electors.”
The committee has portrayed Clark and Bannon as outliers, saying that more than 200 witnesses have already cooperated with the investigation. The panel has yet to reveal, however, what it has learned from those witnesses and who all of them are. The committee has issued over 40 subpoenas, and many others have provided information and interviews voluntarily, according to the panel.
A lawyer for Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, confirmed Tuesday that Meadows is engaging with the committee, has provided records and is expected to appear for an initial deposition. But the full details of the deal negotiated between Meadows and the committee have not been made public, and he could still try to claim executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of certain details.
“We have reason to believe that people are cooperating more since the Bannon indictment than they had been previously,” Thompson told reporters earlier in the day.