Disciplinary board characterizes Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clarke’s actions surrounding 2020 election as ‘coup attempt’
Disciplinary board characterizes Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clarke’s actions surrounding 2020 election as ‘coup attempt’

Former employee of the Ministry of Justice Geoffrey Clarkeefforts to help then-President Donald Trump cancel the 2020 election were characterized Tuesday as an attempted coup by the Washington, D.C., Office of Disciplinary Counsel at a hearing to determine whether Clark should be disciplined.

Clark has been accused of attempted misconduct in his role since the last presidential election.

Much of the hearing before the three-member accountability board focused on a letter Clark sent to his superiors at the time, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donohue. Clark suggested that the letter be sent to Georgia stating that the Department of Justice is investigating irregularities in the state’s election and state lawmakers should void President Biden’s election victory.

Hamilton Fox III, the disciplinary attorney at the hearing, said the letter and Clark’s continued attempts to intervene on Trump’s behalf, including multiple meetings with Trump in violation of Justice Department procedure, were “essentially an attempted coup d’├ętat at the Department of Justice.” justice”.

Jeffrey Clark, then Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on September 14, 2020.

Susan Walsh/AP

Clarke’s lawyer, Harry McDougald, said the action taken against his client was unprecedented. He said the letter should not have been made public and should have fallen under various protections of privilege. He added that the letter was part of the debate that usually takes place between lawyers. He said Clark’s punishment in the circumstances would have a “chilling effect”, a point Donoghue agreed with during the cross-examination portion of his evidence when he said it could discourage people from “being so outspoken, as otherwise they would be.”

Much of the hearing played out as a rehash of the 2020 election fraud allegations and Committee testimony dated January 6including revisiting the dramatic meeting on January 3, 2021, when several White House and Justice Department lawyers threatened to walk out if Trump fired Rosen as acting attorney general and named Clark.

The testimony also highlighted how much pressure has been put on the Justice Department directly by Trump. He has spoken repeatedly with Donohue and Rosen about allegations of fraud and misconduct.

As events unfolded, the two met with Clark at one point to talk about the letter in what Donohue described as a contentious meeting. He said he and Rosen tried to convince Clark that the department had investigated various claims while other things were outside the department’s purview. “We fundamentally disagreed with what the evidence showed,” Donohue said during testimony. “We were just almost living in two different worlds.”

Former White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin, who knew Clark, testified that he spoke with the then-acting head of the Civil Service and told him the theories he espoused were debunked. But Philbin said he felt Clark pursued what he felt was his duty because Clark believed he had serious problems in the election.

During his testimony, Donohue acknowledged that there had been cases of fraud and abuse this year, but nothing on a level that would overturn the election. McDougald’s questioning focused on absentee voting in Fulton County, Georgia, and how there were legitimate concerns that were not fully addressed by the department.

The hearing is expected to resume on Wednesday, with Rosen testifying.

Clark could be fined or suspended. All penalties are appealable to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

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