Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Hold Another Person in Contempt

But will likely give Jeffrey Clark another chance first
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2021 12:32 AM CST
Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Hold Ex-DOJ Official in Contempt
House Jan. 6 Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., center, flanked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., left, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., meet to vote on pursuing contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 US Capitol insurrection has voted to pursue contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who refused to answer the committee's questions—but the panel agreed to let him come back for another try. The committee voted 9-0 Wednesday to pursue criminal charges against Clark, who aligned with then-President Trump ahead of the violent attack as he tried to overturn his election defeat, the AP reports. Clark appeared for a deposition last month but refused to be interviewed, citing Trump’s legal efforts to block the committee’s investigation. The Democratic chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, said it had received a last-minute notification from Clark's lawyer that he now wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Thompson said the lawyer had offered “no specific basis for that assertion” and “no facts that would allow the committee to consider it,” but the committee will give Clark a second chance at a deposition scheduled for Saturday. “This is, in my view, a last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings," Thompson said. “However, a Fifth Amendment privilege assertion is a weighty one. Even though Mr. Clark previously had the opportunity to make these claims on the record, the Select Committee will provide him another chance to do so." Thompson said the committee was still proceeding with the contempt vote “as this is just the first step of the contempt process.”

The recommendation of criminal contempt charges against Clark will now go to the full House for a vote, though that is expected to be delayed until after the Saturday deposition. If the House votes to hold Clark in contempt, the Justice Department will then decide whether to prosecute. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel's vice chairwoman, said the committee would consider accepting Clark's assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights if Clark says he believes that answering questions about his interactions with Trump and others could incriminate him. Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 panel have vowed to hold any witness who doesn’t comply in contempt as they investigate the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries. On Wednesday, Thompson said Clark has left them with no other choice. (One person has already been indicted for contempt; another nearly was.)

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