How a Trump environmental legal professional tried to arm the Justice Division to assist the president
Clark is now a major figure in the narrative, written in documents and testimony from former Justice Department officials forced to fend off his efforts to orchestrate a coup at the Justice Department in order to aid the former president.
A blatant portrayal of Clark is looming through former Trump-appointed officials who were alerted by his back-channel efforts to the White House and Trump allies and are now testifying before congressional committees. Richard Donoghue, acting assistant attorney general since late December, gave an in camera interview to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. Jeffrey Rosen, then acting attorney General, will testify in the coming days. A new House of Representatives special committee investigating events related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol is also planning to require testimony from them and other witnesses.
When Trump and his allies spread conspiracies over alleged irregularities that he claimed stole his election in late December, Clark told senior judicial officials that he was aware of sensitive information suggesting that Chinese intelligence was of special species used by thermometers to change the results of vote counting machines, said people informed of the matter. The Justice Department had made it clear by then that it had found no evidence of a change in vote in the elections.
On Monday, December 28, Clark – who also became assistant attorney general for the Civil Department of Justice when senior officials stepped off the administration during the waning months of the administration – sent an unusual email to his superiors asking them to send him a secret meeting permit, according to information provided by individuals who have been briefed on the matter.
At Rosen’s request, then-director of the National Intelligence Service, John Ratcliffe, provided the briefing, which relied on secret evidence that has not yet been made public that showed there was no evidence that foreign interference had affected the vote count. Rosen and other officials complied with his secret briefing because they believed it could put a stop to his unfounded allegations of electoral fraud, according to some sources.
Clark was not swayed by what he heard from Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who had sparked controversy with comments supporting Trump’s pre-election foreign interference claims that China and Iran were working to elect Joe Biden , just like Russia tried to support Trump.
While intelligence agencies discovered that China and Iran had developed a preference for Biden, and Iran in particular had taken steps to undermine Trump’s re-election prospects, those efforts were markedly different from Russia’s multi-faceted meddling campaign.
During the briefing, Clark expressed his skepticism not about Ratcliffe’s personal motives but about the intelligence agency analysis he presented, the source added. Clark believed that some intelligence officials withheld certain information from Ratcliffe because they were concerned that it would be politicized by the Trump administration or certain policy makers, the source also said.
A Clark attorney declined to comment on the intelligence briefing. Ratcliffe declined to comment on the briefing.
Clark also told colleagues he was in contact with sources who knew more, including someone judicial officers later discovered to be MP Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Trump ally who helped Clark with the former president to get in touch. Justice Department rules limit contact between Department officials and the White House, and Clark’s contacts with Trump came as a shock to his superiors. Justice Department officials are also prohibited from discussing an investigation with anyone outside the Department.
Clark’s December 28 email, received by the House Oversight Committee, was sent to Rosen and Donoghue describing how Clark wanted US intelligence from the director of National Intelligence so that he could assess whether or not China-made digital thermometers were using Voting machines could be connected.
“I would like your approval to receive a secret briefing from ODNI, under the direction of DNI Radcliffe, tomorrow on questions of influencing foreign elections,” Clark began his email on a smart thermostat with a network link that leads back to China. ODNI may have additional secret evidence. “
Clark’s email also included his draft proposal for the Department of Justice to urge the state of Georgia to convene a special session to investigate the election and assurances that the Department of Justice would also investigate election fraud. ABC News released a copy of the email for the first time this week.
Donoghue and Rosen made it clear that they would not sign the letter or send it to Georgia, and that the Justice Department would suggest no reason for an extensive investigation into the election fraud.
Up until last December, Clark had served an inconspicuous tenure as the division’s environmental law chief, one of many policy officers not particularly conspicuous in his occasional brown-bag lunches with fellow attorneys-general convened by former Attorney General William Barr in the dining room on the 5th floor of the justice building.
People who worked with him called him insane and quirky about his legal specialty. He joined the department from the large, prestigious law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he worked with Rosen and Barr for years but never earned enough to join the partnership.
One person who has worked with him previously says that Clark was the type of attorney who viewed “no” as an intellectual challenge to prove himself wrong rather than a definitive answer.
Clark is not yet scheduled for an interview with the House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry on Jan. 6 and is awaiting access to documents the committee has and to see if there is any dispute over presidential secrecy, according to a person who is with Clark’s mindset is familiar.
Trump’s private legal department has signaled that it may go to court to fight for presidential privilege if the House requests more information than has already been agreed. That could open the door for Clark to refuse to testify as well. The Biden administration has signaled that it will not attempt to block the House Committee from investigating Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misrepresented how Clark’s December 28th email was published.
CNN’s Whitney Wild contributed to this report.