For a quick second in early January 2021, it seemed like Jeffrey Clark’s second within the solar had arrived. He was poised to develop into a significant participant in Washington.
All he wanted to do was efficiently persuade then-President Donald Trump to put in him as appearing legal professional common, then demand that key swing states gained by Joe Biden ship a separate slate of pro-Trump electors to Congress, thus overturning Biden’s Electoral College win.
Up to that time, Clark was, within the eyes of true Washington insiders, a schnook, a comparative no one.
It wasn’t that he was unaccomplished. Clark had a stable resume as a graduate of Harvard and Georgetown Law, and spent over a decade as a associate on the legislation agency of Kirkland & Ellis. He had even been Senate-confirmed. In 2018, Trump nominated Clark to be assistant legal professional common for the Environment and Natural Resources Division on the Department of Justice. He was confirmed on a close to party-line vote, with opposition on account of the truth that Clark, who represented BP in his non-public follow, was a local weather science skeptic. Clark was precisely the kind of sensible man with a ceiling that makes up the upper-middle class of Washington policymakers.
But Washington legislation companies and Nationals Park field seats are jam-packed with unobtrusive Republicans who signify the fossil gas business. There are fewer who sought to actively overturn a democratic election and vied to be the hatchet man for an outgoing president decided to remain in energy.
The latter a part of Clark’s resume is why this specific former bureaucrat will get a unique kind of second within the obvious highlight on Thursday, when these actions will probably be a spotlight of the choose committee investigating the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.
Clark himself gained’t be on the witness stand. He appeared earlier than the committee in February, solely when he was going through a attainable contempt referral after refusing to reply questions at a previous deposition. In that February look, he invoked his Fifth Amendment proper towards self-incrimination over 100 occasions.
Much of what we learn about Clark’s actions comes from a deposition from his former colleague Richard Donoghue, who was additionally appearing assistant legal professional common. Clark first approached his boss, appearing Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, in late December 2020. Clark reached out to Rosen on December 28 for permission to get a briefing on whether or not China may management Dominion voting machines by way of sensible thermostat and a draft letter for the Department of Justice to ship to key Georgia officers asking them to dam certification of the state’s election outcomes. This letter was a mannequin, which, if accepted, could possibly be despatched to different key states gained by Biden as properly. Rosen rebuffed him.
However, Clark then went round Rosen, on to Trump. The Justice Department official had been related to the then-president by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the pinnacle of the hard-right Freedom Caucus and one in all Trump’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill.
In a dramatic Oval Office assembly that includes Trump, Clark, and prime attorneys from the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s workplace, Clark urged the president to present him his second within the solar.
“History is looking. This is our alternative. We can get this carried out,” Clark mentioned, in accordance with the deposition by Donoghue. Everyone else within the assembly is claimed to have pushed again towards Clark’s try to take management of the DOJ. Donoghue, together with Steve Engel, one other prime DOJ official appointed by Trump, mentioned they might resign if Trump changed Clark with Rosen.
Donoghue, by his personal account, went on to threaten the specter of mass resignations if Trump went via along with his plot. “And we’re not the one ones. You ought to perceive that your whole division management will resign. … You may have mass resignations amongst your US attorneys. And then it would trickle down from there; you might have resignations throughout the Department. And what occurs if, inside 48 hours, we have now tons of of resignations out of your Justice Department due to your actions?”
This was echoed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who, in accordance with Donoghue, mentioned at one level within the assembly, “Well, I’m not going to face for this, I’m not going to be right here if it occurs both.”
Donoghue mentioned he then denigrated Clark’s authorized talents, telling Trump, “Jeff Clark isn’t even competent to function the legal professional common.” After Clark protested and insisted that he was up for the duty, Donoghue says he basically informed him to go house and get his shine field.
“That’s proper,” retorted Donoghue. “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you return to your workplace, and we’ll name you when there’s an oil spill.”
Eventually, Trump blinked. Although he made complaints to Rosen and Donoghue like “You two haven’t carried out something” and “Everyone says I ought to hearth you,” he didn’t comply with via on his plan to raise Clark. He introduced on the finish of the assembly that he was going to let it go. Clark’s second had handed.
Since leaving the Justice Department, Clark has joined a Trumpist assume tank, the Center for Renewing America. However, whereas he’s not more likely to wield energy anytime quickly, he would be the focus in Thursday’s hearings. Rosen, Donoghue, and Engel will all testify about Trump’s efforts to weaponize the DOJ to overturn the 2020 election.
There are nonetheless questions on Clark’s involvement within the effort to overturn the election, like who else the environmental lawyer was working with in addition to the character of his ties to Perry, that stay unresolved.
As one choose committee aide informed reporters on Wednesday, “Jeffrey Clark is actually an necessary determine in the case of the stress marketing campaign towards the Department of Justice.”
But regardless of his greatest efforts, Clark is unlikely to be an necessary determine in historical past. Instead, it seems he will probably be a bit character who made one bumbling try towards relevance, and failed.