The House committee investigating the January 6 riot in the United States Capitol issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department attorney who positioned himself as an ally of Donald Trump and assisted in the efforts of the Republican president. to challenge the 2020 election results.
The Jeffrey Clark subpoena, released Wednesday, came amid signs of a rapidly escalating Congressional investigation. At least three of the people who participated in the organization and execution of the demonstration that preceded the violent riot are delivering documents in response to subpoenas from the committee.
Clark’s demands for documents and testimony reflect the committee’s efforts to investigate not only the deadly insurrection, but also the tumult that rocked the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to when Trump and his allies relied on government attorneys to advance their unsubstantiated claims that the election results were fraudulent. Trump loyalists who mistakenly believed the election had been stolen stormed Capitol Hill in an effort to disrupt Democrat Joe Biden’s Congressional certification of the victory.
Clark, an assistant attorney general in the Trump administration, has become a pivotal character in that saga. A Senate committee report issued last week shows how he defended Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and, as a result, clashed with superiors in the Department of Justice who resisted the pressure, culminating in a dramatic meeting at the White House in which Trump reflected on the possibility of elevating Clark to attorney general.
“The Select Committee’s investigation has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Justice Department in efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, wrote in a letter to Clark. announcing the summons.
While Trump ultimately did not appoint Clark acting attorney general, “Clark’s efforts risked engaging the Justice Department in actions that lacked evidence and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” Thompson added.
The committee has scheduled a deposition for October. 29 and required documents for the same date. An attorney for Clark declined to comment.
The Jan.6 panel has so far sought testimony from a broad cast of witnesses, but its demands on Trump aides and associates are potentially complicated by Trump’s vote to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.
A witness, Steve Bannon, has already told the committee that he will not cooperate based on Trump’s directive, although lawmakers have said they were “compromising” with two other Trump officials: former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel. . It’s also unclear whether Dan Scavino, Trump’s longtime social media director and one of his most loyal aides, will cooperate.
Biden has formally rejected Trump’s claim for executive privilege around a stretch of documents requested during the former president’s time in the White House, setting up their possible publication in Congress in mid-November. White House attorney Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter published Wednesday that Biden believes that “an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States.”
However, others are cooperating, including some of the 11 who organized or were on the staff of the Trump rally that preceded the riot. They were given a deadline Wednesday to turn in documents and records, and they were also asked to appear in separate depositions the committee has scheduled.
Among those who responded was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide security for the event that day. “All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were delivered,” he told The Associated Press.
Brentnall had previously said that his company had “every intention” to comply. “As far as we are concerned, we are conducting security at a legally permitted event conducted in conjunction with the United States Secret Service and the Park Police,” he said.
Two former White House and Trump campaign staff, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, listed on the January 6 meeting permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications “, also provided documents or are planning to do so.
Powers, who served as the chief operating officer for Trump’s re-election campaign, intends to provide the requested documentation and meet with the committee, although it is unclear what form such meetings will take, according to a person familiar with his response who spoke. with the condition of anonymity.
Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 marched down the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his baseless claims of voter fraud and implored the crowd to “fight like hell.” .
The election results were confirmed by state officials and backed by the courts. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.
It is unclear whether the others who were summoned intend to cooperate. A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment Wednesday on the responses it had received and how many of the 11 were complying.
Committee members, including Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chair, have threatened to file criminal contempt charges against the named witnesses who refuse to comply. A House vote would send those charges to the Justice Department, which would then decide whether to prosecute.
Clark’s subpoena follows the release last week of a Senate Judiciary Committee report that documented extraordinary tensions within senior Justice Department officials in December and January when Trump and his allies lobbied the law enforcement agency. to help him undo the choices.
The committee’s Democratic majority report describes Clark as a tireless advocate within the building of Trump’s efforts, including presenting his colleagues with a draft letter urging Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on the results of the the elections. Clark wanted the letter sent, but superiors at the Justice Department refused.
“We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and know who was involved throughout the administration,” Thompson wrote.
Two additional rally organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as their “Stop the Steal” organization, also received a subpoena for the documents, which expire on October 10. twenty-one.
Alexander wrote in a Telegram post on Monday that the committee was “subpoenaing people in bad faith.”
“So maybe this Select Committee is fake?” He added. “Everyone is waiting to see what I do.”
Colvin reported from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.