June 09, 2022

ICYMI: Ahead of House Hearings on January 6 Insurrection, Judiciary Committee Details Critical Findings from October 2021 Report Obtained through Senate Investigation

The Select Committee has cited the Senate Judiciary Committee investigation throughout their tandem investigation, including when citing Jeffrey Clark and Mark Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it: Following an eight-month investigation, the Senate Judiciary Committee released testimony and a staff report in October 2021 entitled Subverting Justice: How the Former President and his Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.  The report and testimony reveal that we were only a half-step away from a full blown constitutional crisis as President Donald Trump and his loyalists threatened a wholesale takeover of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  They also reveal how former Acting Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark became Trump’s Big Lie Lawyer, pressuring his colleagues in DOJ to force an overturn of the 2020 election.

The report sheds previously undocumented light on Trump’s relentless efforts to coopt DOJ into overturning the 2020 election and Clark’s efforts to aid Trump.  The Committee’s interim report was the first comprehensive accounting of those efforts, which were even more expansive and troubling than previously reported. 

After sharing Subverting Justice with the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, the House committee cited our report and documents at several points in their tandem investigation—including when issuing a subpoena for Jeffrey Clark.  The Select Committee also relied on our report, in part, in deciding to cite Clark and Mark Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress in December 2021.

Additionally, in light of the report’s findings, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the D.C. Bar to open an investigation into Jeffrey Clark’s compliance with applicable rules of professional conduct.  These rules include Rule 1.2, which prohibits attorneys from assisting or counseling clients in criminal or fraudulent conduct, and Rule 8.4, which among other things prohibits conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice.

Key takeaways from the Committee’s October 2021 investigation include:

  • Previously-unreleased transcripts of the Committee’s closed-door interviews with three key former senior DOJ officials: former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak.  These witnesses cooperated with the Committee, and although their testimony was not under oath, they were obligated by 18 U.S.C. § 1001 to tell the truth.
  • New details of Donald Trump’s relentless, direct pressure on DOJ’s leadership.  This includes at least nine calls and meetings with Rosen and/or Donoghue starting the day former Attorney General Bill Barr announced his resignation and continuing almost until the January 6 insurrection—including near-daily outreach once Barr left DOJ on December 23. 
  • New details of then-Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Clark’s misconduct, including his attempt to induce Rosen into helping Trump’s election subversion scheme by telling Rosen he would decline Trump’s offer to install him in Rosen’s place if Rosen agreed to aid that scheme.
  • New details around Trump forcing the resignation of U.S. Attorney Pak because he believed Pak was not doing enough to support his false claims of election fraud in Georgia—and then went outside the line of succession to appoint Bobby Christine as Acting U.S. Attorney because he believed Christine would “do something” about his election fraud claims.
  • New details of how, at Barr’s direction, DOJ deviated from decades-long practice meant to avoid inserting DOJ itself as an issue in the election—and instead aggressively pursued false claims of election fraud before votes were certified. 
  • Confirmation that Mark Meadows asked Rosen to initiate election fraud investigations on multiple occasions, violating longstanding restrictions on White House intervention in DOJ law enforcement matters—and new details about these requests, including that Meadows asked Rosen to meet with Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Based on these findings, the interim report makes the following recommendations:

  • Congress should strengthen longstanding DOJ and White House policies restricting the circumstances under which DOJ and White House officials can communicate with one another about specific law enforcement matters.
  • DOJ should strengthen its longstanding election non-interference policy, which is meant to avoid inserting DOJ as an issue into a pending election.
  • The D.C. Bar should scrutinize Clark’s compliance with applicable bar rules.
  • The Committee is withholding potential recommendations about criminal culpability and criminal referrals until the investigation is complete.

In January 2021, following a report from The New York Times that detailed a plot between Trump and Clark to use DOJ to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, Durbin led the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter to then-Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson calling on him to preserve and produce all relevant materials in the DOJ’s possession, custody, or control related to this plot.  This kicked off the Committee’s eight-month investigation.  Since the release of Subverting Justice, the Committee has continued its investigation into this episode as the Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration have continued to produce new records.

A link to the Senate Judiciary Committee report is available here.

A link to the transcripts of the Committee’s closed-door interviews with former Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak is available here.

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