Former Assistant AG Refuses to Answer Executive Privilege Questions From Jan. 6 Committee

A former assistant attorney general who supported former President Donald Trump after he lost the 2020 election has refused to be fully interviewed by the January 6 committee.

Jeffrey Clark had brought a letter to the committee saying that he would refuse to answer questions about Trump's usage of executive privilege. He was previously subpoenaed to appear and did not answer questions from reporters as he left, according to an anonymous Associated Press source.

Clark's refusal to answer questions comes as Trump attempts to block the release of internal White House documents from before and during the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Other allies to the former president, including Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have also refused to cooperate with the committee.

The committee has so far interviewed over 150 witnesses, including former and current executive branch officials, campaign aides and law enforcement officials, the AP reported. They have also talked to organizers of the "Stop the Steal" rally, during which Trump told supporters to "fight like hell" as Congress certified the results of the 2020 presidential election.

It is unknown whether Clark will be held in contempt of Congress following the meeting. A committee spokesman declined to comment.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

US Capitol
Former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark has refused to answer questions from the January 6 committee. The U.S. Capitol building is seen above on October 14, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has so far waived executive privilege on nearly all the documents that the committee has asked for, citing the panel's need to investigate the violent attack.

Clark is one of almost 20 people the committee has subpoenaed so far. A report issued by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee last month detailed how he championed Trump's efforts to undo the election results and clashed as a result with Justice Department superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a dramatic White House meeting at which Trump ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general. He did not do so after several aides threatened to resign.

The chairman of the House January 6 committee, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, wrote in Clark's subpoena that the committee's probe "has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power" and his efforts "risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law."

The House voted last month to recommend the charges against Bannon, and it is now up to the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute.

As they voted to hold Bannon in contempt, lawmakers on the panel—including two Republicans—made clear they would fight any assertions of executive privilege, which was developed over the years to protect a president's private conversations and communications. Thompson said then that the panel "won't be deterred" by any such claims.

A federal judge hearing the case also appeared to question Trump's assertions this week, expressing skepticism when Trump's lawyers argued the House panel did not have a legislative purpose for obtaining the documents.

"The Jan. 6 riot happened in the Capitol," said U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan. "That is literally Congress' house."

The House committee could pursue similar contempt charges against Meadows and former Trump administration aides Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, who have all been in extended discussions with the committee about testifying after they were subpoenaed.

Despite Trump's false claims about a stolen election—the primary motivation for the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden's victory—the results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by the courts. Trump's own attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the results.

Jeffrey Clark
Former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark aligned himself with former President Donald Trump after he lost the 2020 election. Above, Clark speaks as he stands next to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen during a news conference at the Justice Department on October 21, 2020. Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP, File