Jan 6. panel subpoenas Trump DOJ official, wrestles with no-shows

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has expanded its probe of former Trump officials as it mulls legal recourse for those who don’t cooperate.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson on Wednesday issued a subpoena for former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who the panel says was “involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

The panel has issued 19 subpoenas targeting former Trump officials and others involved in the “Stop the Steal” rally that took place before the Jan. 6 riot.

“The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results,” Mr. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, said in a statement. “We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration.”

Citing a recently released report by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House panel alleges that Mr. Clark proposed that the Justice Department send letters to certain state legislators to delay the election certification.

Mr. Clark also recommended that senior officials in the department green-light a press conference announcing an investigation into allegations of voter fraud, according to the Senate committee’s report. Both proposals were rejected by Mr. Clark’s superiors.

The House committee alleges that then-President Donald Trump considered appointing Mr. Clark as acting attorney general as a result of his efforts.

“While he did not ultimately make that personal change, your efforts risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” Mr. Thompson said in the subpoena.

The House panel has requested that Mr. Clark produce documents related to the matter and appear before the committee for a deposition scheduled for Oct. 29.

Wednesday’s subpoena came the same week as the scheduled deposition of four former Trump administration officials.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and former Defense Department official Kash Patel have depositions scheduled for Thursday.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino are scheduled to appear Friday for depositions.

Mr. Trump has resisted the committee’s efforts to investigate his administration, citing executive privilege. But his argument has been rejected by the current White House counsel as unjustified and “not in the best interest of the United States.”

Mr. Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, sent a letter to the House panel late Wednesday indicating that his client would not participate in the deposition, citing the former president’s assertion of privilege, which he said had yet to be ironed out by the committee.

Mr. Costello’s letter likely came as no surprise to the lawmakers, who noted last week that Mr. Bannon had indicated that he would not comply with the subpoena. 

“Mr. Bannon has indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President,” Mr. Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney said in a statement. “The Select Committee fully expects all of these witnesses to comply with our demands for both documents and deposition testimony.”

It is unclear whether Messrs. Patel, Meadows and Scavino intend to comply with the subpoena. In a statement last week, Mr. Thomson and Ms. Cheney, Wyoming Republican and the select committee’s vice chair, said Mr. Meadows and Mr. Patel were “so far, engaging with the Select Committee.”

Lawmakers on the panel have signaled that they will pursue criminal contempt of court charges for those who fail to appear for deposition.

“We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said last week.

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