The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot announced on Wednesday that it is extending a final opportunity for former Trump Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark to comply with its probe, before sending its recommendation for contempt of Congress to the full House.
In a last-minute detente as the committee met to vote on holding Mr. Clark in contempt, committee Chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, announced that the committee had reached an agreement to allow Mr. Clark to appear for a second deposition, after the former Trump Department of Justice official’s refusal to answer questions in a deposition last month in which he cited President Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
During last month’s appearance, the committee rejected Mr. Clark‘s assertions, and the deposition concluded prematurely after approximately 90 minutes.
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But in a letter to the committee late Tuesday, Mr. Clark’s lawyer, Harry W. McDougald, stated that his client now wishes to assert his rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution in addition to the former president’s claims of privilege.
Mr. Thompson said that while he viewed the last-minute correspondence as an attempt to further delay the committee’s proceedings, he nonetheless acquiesced, and offered Mr. Clark an opportunity to reappear for a deposition and assert his Fifth Amendment rights as he faced a new round of questioning scheduled for Saturday.
“This is, in my view, a last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings,” Mr. 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.”
Following Mr. Thompson’s remarks, the panel voted to tentatively hold Mr. Clark in contempt, pending his appearance for the follow on deposition.
Should Mr. Clark fail to appear before the committee and offer his full cooperation, the recommendation to hold him in contempt would proceed to the full House for a vote. If passed in the House, a criminal referral will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office recommending Mr. Clark’s prosecution.
Several witnesses have leaned on the president’s case as justification for stonewalling the committee. Members of the committee have continued to reject the claims and have signaled their intent to pursue charges against uncooperative witnesses.
The committee voted unanimously in October to pursue criminal contempt charges for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon who failed to appear for a scheduled deposition, citing the former president’s claims of executive privilege.
The measure passed the full House and the Justice Department then empaneled a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress.
In November, former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also failed to appear for a scheduled deposition before the committee.
His lawyer, George Terwilliger III, asserted that Mr. Meadows remained “immune” from the committee’s probe citing former President Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
The committee signaled they would pursue contempt charges for Mr. Meadows’ soon after he failed to appear
Earlier this week, after announcing plans to vote on charges against Mr. Clark, the committee announced that Mr. Meadows had begun cooperating with their investigation and that the former chief of staff plans to appear for a deposition in the near future.
Wednesday’s move marked another surprising twist as the committee continues to wrangle key witnesses.
“We just want the facts,” Mr. Thompson said. “We need witnesses to cooperate with the legal obligation to provide us with the information about what led to the January 6 attack.”
“Mr. Clark still has that opportunity, and I hope he takes advantage of it,” he said. “But we will not allow anyone to run out the clock and we will insist that he must appear on this Saturday.”
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