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How a Trump environmental lawyer tried to arm the Justice Department to help the president

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Clark is now a major figure in the narrative written in documents and testimonies from former Justice Department officials who have been forced to push back his efforts to orchestrate a leadership coup at the Justice Department and use it to help l ‘former president.

An austere portrait of Clark emerges from former Trump-appointed officials who were alarmed by his behind-the-scenes efforts towards the White House and Trump allies, and who are now testifying before congressional committees. Richard Donoghue, acting deputy attorney general since the end of December, gave a closed-door interview to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. Jeffrey Rosen, the then acting attorney general, is expected to testify in the coming days. A new House select committee examining the events surrounding the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol is also planning to call for their testimony and that of other witnesses.

In late December, as Trump and his allies plotted over alleged irregularities that he said robbed him of the election, Clark told senior justice officials he was aware of sensitive information indicating that the Chinese Secret Service used special types of thermometers to modify the results of vote-counting machines. , said people briefed on the matter. The Ministry of Justice then made it clear that it had found no evidence of a change in the vote during the elections.

On Monday, December 28, Clark – who also became deputy attorney general of the Civil Justice Division as senior officials left in the administration’s final months – sent an unusual email to his bosses asking them to allow him to have a classified briefing. , according to people informed on the subject.

At Rosen’s request, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe provided the briefing, which was based on classified findings not yet public that showed there was no evidence that the interference foreigner had affected the vote count. Rosen and other officials had granted his request for a classified briefing, believing it could put an end to his unfounded allegations of voter fraud, some of the sources said.

Clark was not swayed by what he heard from Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who sparked controversy with comments seeking to support Trump’s pre-election foreign interference that China and Iran were working to elect Joe Biden just like Russia was trying to support Trump.

While the intelligence community has found that China and Iran have developed a preference for Biden, and that Iran in particular has taken steps to undermine Trump’s re-election prospects, these efforts have been characterized as a very different way from Russia’s multi-faceted campaign of interference.

During the briefing, Clark expressed his skepticism not about Ratcliffe’s personal motivations, but about the intelligence community analysis he was presenting, the source added. Clark believed some intelligence officials were withholding certain information from Ratcliffe because they feared it might be politicized by the Trump administration or certain policymakers, the source also said.

An attorney for Clark declined to comment on the intelligence briefing. Ratcliffe declined to comment on the briefing.

Clark also told his colleagues he was in contact with sources who knew more, including someone who justice officials later determined was Rep. Scott Perry, a Trump ally from Pennsylvania who has helped Clark get in touch with the former president. Justice Department rules limit contact between department officials and the White House, and Clark’s contact with Trump has come as a shock to his superiors. Justice ministry officials are also prohibited from discussing investigations with people outside the ministry.

Clark’s December 28 email, obtained by the House Oversight Committee, was sent to Rosen and Donoghue and described how Clark wanted US intelligence information from the Director of National Intelligence so he could assess whether the thermometers digital cameras made in China could connect to voting machines.

“I would like your permission to get a classified ODNI briefing led by DNI Radcliffe on the issues of foreign electoral interference tomorrow,” his email began, “Hackers have evidence (in the public domain) that a Dominion machine accessed the internet through a smart thermostat with an internet connection trail leading to China. ODNI may have additional classified evidence. “

Clark’s email also included his draft proposal for the Justice Department to pressure the state of Georgia to convene a special session to investigate the election, and assurances that the Department of Justice Justice would also look into electoral fraud. ABC News first published a copy of the email this week.

Donoghue and Rosen have made it clear that they will not sign or send the letter to Georgia, and that the Justice Department will not suggest there is a reason for a major electoral fraud investigation.

Until last December, Clark had led a mundane tenure as the department’s chief environmental law officer, one of many political appointments that didn’t particularly stand out during his occasional attendance at pocket lunches with colleagues summoned by former Attorney General William Barr to the Attorney General’s office. dining room on the 5th floor of the seat of Justice.

People who worked with him called him cerebral and reckless about his legal specialty. He came to the department of the large and prestigious law firm Kirkland & Ellis where he worked for years with Rosen and Barr, but never branded enough to earn a share in the partnership.

One person who has worked with him before said that Clark was the type of lawyer who saw the “no” as an intellectual challenge to prove he was wrong rather than a definitive answer.

Clark has yet to schedule a meeting with the House Select Committee investigating Jan.6 and is waiting to gain access to the documents the committee has and to see if a fight over the secrecy of the presidential talks materializes, one person said. familiar with Clark’s thinking.

Trump’s private legal team has signaled that it could go to court to fight for presidential privilege if the House asks for more information than has already been agreed. It could also open the door for Clark to refuse to testify. The Biden administration has signaled that it will not try to block the House committee in its investigation into Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized how Clark’s December 28 email was made public.

CNN’s Whitney Wild contributed to this report.


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