The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plans to vote Wednesday on recommending criminal contempt of Congress charges against former Trump Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark.
The escalation against Mr. Clark follows his refusal to answer the panel’s questions when he appeared for a deposition earlier this month.
Mr. Clark cited former President Donald Trump‘s claim of executive privilege, which is being fought in the courts.
“It’s astounding that someone who so recently held a position of public trust to uphold the Constitution would now hide behind vague claims of privilege by a former President, refuse to answer questions about an attack on our democracy, and continue an assault on the rule of law,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee said in a statement following the deposition.
The legal wrangling surrounding the committee underscores the political conflict at the heart of the Democrat-run committee’s work. Democrats describe their work as a quest for truth, but Mr. Trump‘s supporters view the committee as an attempt to smear Republicans and score political points.
The House panel alleges that Mr. Clark proposed that the Justice Department should send letters to state lawmakers to delay the election certification. Mr. Clark also recommended that senior officials in the department greenlight a press conference announcing an investigation into accusations of voter fraud, according to the report.
Mr. Clark‘s superiors rejected both of the proposals.
The committee also alleges that Mr. Trump considered appointing Mr. Clark as acting attorney general as a result of his efforts.
Mr. Trump sued the committee last month over its sweeping request for the release of White House documents related to the Jan. 6 probe.
His legal team said in the lawsuit that the House committee has “no legitimate legislative purpose” for its request. They also press the claim that, as a former president, Mr. Trump enjoys “inherent constitutional rights of privilege.”
Several witnesses have leaned on the president’s case as justification for stonewalling the committee.
The committee voted unanimously in October to pursue criminal contempt charges for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon who failed to appear for a scheduled deposition. The measure passed the full House and the Justice Department then empaneled a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress.
Mr. Bannon faces up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for each count if found guilty.
He pleaded not guilty. He also vowed to “go on the offense” and use the proceedings to put the government on trial.
This vote on Mr. Clark comes as the committee weighs similar charges for former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who also failed to appear for a deposition.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and member of the committee, told CNN on Sunday that the committee would make a decision this week on whether to refer criminal contempt charges for Mr. Meadows in addition to Mr. Clark.
“We are moving with alacrity with anyone who obstructs the committee, and that was certainly the case with Mr. Bannon. It will be the case with Mr. Meadows, and Mr. Clark or any others,” he said.
The committee is also making its final push this week for the release of Mr. Trump‘s White House Records.
Mr. Trump‘s initial request for an injunction to halt the National Archive’s release of the records was denied by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan earlier this month. A federal appeals court later granted Mr. Trump an emergency motion to pause the release as his legal team appeals the decision.
House General Counsel Douglas Letter filed the remarks last week to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of the committee ahead of oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday as part of Mr. Trump‘s ongoing lawsuit aimed at blocking the National Archives from releasing documents requested by the panel.
“The Select Committee’s work is of the highest importance and urgency: It is investigating one of the darkest episodes in our Nation’s history, a deadly assault on the United States Capitol, the Vice President, and Congress, and an unprecedented disruption of the peaceful transfer of power,” Mr. Letter wrote.