05/18/2024

Some Crim

Track the Untold Stories

Left: Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark attends an event hosted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., at the Capitol in Washington, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades). Right: Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal in New York, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Sarah Yenesel/Pool Photo via AP)

‘Jeffrey Clark betrayed his oath’: Trump DOJ lawyer behind fake electors plot should be disbarred, disciplinary panel says

Left: Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark attends an event hosted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., at the Capitol in Washington, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades). Right: Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal in New York, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Sarah Yenesel/Pool Photo via AP)

The District of Columbia’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel issued a recommendation this week battering the credibility of former Donald Trump Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark, saying Clark’s “dishonest attempt to create national chaos” in the run-up to Jan. 6 meant the only suitable sanction would be disbarment because, put simply, nothing else would do.

“It is not enough that the efforts of these lawyers ultimately failed,” the three-member disciplinary panel said of Clark and other Trump administration lawyers who contested the 2020 election on the former president’s behalf or, as the panel noted, at his “direction.”

“We must do what we can to ensure that this conduct is never repeated. The way to accomplish that goal is to remove from the profession lawyers who betrayed their constitutional obligations and their country. It is important that other lawyers who might be tempted to engage in similar misconduct be aware that doing so will cost them their privilege to practice law. It is also important for the courts and the legal profession to state clearly that the ends do not justify the means; that process matters; and that this is a society of laws, not men,” wrote disciplinary counsel Hamilton Fox III. “Jeffrey Clark betrayed his oath to support the Constitution of the United States of America. He is not fit to be a member of the District of Columbia Bar.”

Fox added:

As a member of the D.C. Bar, Mr. Clark swore an oath that he would ‘support the Constitution of the United States of America.’ As an officer in the Department of Justice, he undoubtedly took a variation of that oath. By attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct in the ways he did, he betrayed those oaths and, in doing so, his country. Lawyers who betray their country must be disbarred.

Clark and his attorneys have until May 23 to reply and from there, his response will be considered by the disciplinary panel before a final decision follows at the Court of Appeals. The disciplinary counsel is an arm of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Related Coverage:

    The disciplinary counsel first filed an ethics complaint against Clark in July 2022. Clark was tapped to serve as Trump’s acting attorney general after Trump lost his 2020 run against now-President Joe Biden and, according to the allegations underpinning his ethics complaint, he violated rules of professional conduct by crafting a dishonest letter meant to interfere with the administration of justice.

    The letter was a draft memorandum Clark wrote at the Justice Department that urged state legislatures where Trump had lost to Biden to send in fake elector slates over alleged concerns about voter fraud. Those claims of voter fraud were wildly overblown and ultimately nonexistent, according to the nation’s intelligence apparatuses and even Trump’s own attorney general at the time, Bill Barr.

    Clark has also been charged in Georgia alongside Trump for alleged racketeering efforts underpinning the fake elector scheme.

    During a disciplinary hearing last month before D.C. Bar officials, as Law&Crime previously reported, Clark invoked his Fifth Amendment right repeatedly, dodging questions of any probative value. He did the same thing when he squared off with investigators on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, who probed him about the draft letter and his alleged attempts to pressure or undermine senior Justice Department officials who wouldn’t go along with the proposed memo.

    Clark has attempted to rid himself of the board’s scrutiny by claiming its members lack statutory authority. That was rejected by Fox and others in the April 29 filing; Fox argued Clark’s so-called “proof-of-concept” letter about the fake elector slates blatantly violated federal rules for lawyers when it came to the most basic requirements for practicing law: honesty.

    “Willful blindness to the truth demonstrates dishonest intent,” Fox wrote, citing an earlier 2011 ruling.

    Clark “agreed to push President Trump’s false claims of election fraud “even when the Department of Justice overwhelmingly “refused to play along,” Fox wrote.

    “Although Attorney General Barr accelerated the normal pace of post-election investigations of alleged election irregularities, those investigations did not uncover evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome in any state, as Mr. Barr announced on December 1 and again on December 21, 2020,” the filing states.

    Clark knew the voter fraud claims were false and evidence showed this but instead of backing down, he “intensified his efforts” to send the letter while making no attempt to speak with federal officials at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about the so-called fraud.

    Instead, they said, he spoke directly to Trump “in violation of the Department’s White House contact policy” and continued to pressure officials at the department at the time, like Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, telling them that if they would not do his or Trump’s bidding, he could have their jobs.

    “Mr. Clark has emphasized that the letter was never sent, claiming that he engaged in nothing but a vigorous discussion of how to proceed and that he is being prosecuted for a ‘thought crime.’ But his conduct was much more than a debate about policy,” Fox wrote. “This was an attempt to do the President’s dirty work to undermine, with no basis, the integrity of a presidential election — to do what Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue refused to do, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to President Trump. Mr. Clark intended to send, in the name of the Department of Justice, a dishonest letter. The fact that he was stopped from doing so by lawyers who displayed the integrity he lacked does not mitigate the impact of what he did and what he almost accomplished — what he surely would have done as Acting Attorney General, had Mr. Rosen not insisted on and prevailed in that Oval Office meeting.”

    An attorney for Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

    Sign up for the Law&Crime Daily Newsletter for more breaking news and updates

    The post ‘Jeffrey Clark betrayed his oath’: Trump DOJ lawyer behind fake electors plot should be disbarred, disciplinary panel says first appeared on Law & Crime.