On Thursday, contempt of Congress referral was considered by the House Rules Committee against the former Trump Department of Justice officer Jeffrey Clark. The official refused to answer the questions on the ongoing investigation of the Jan. 6 attack case.
The Last Opportunity to Clark
In his opening remarks on Wednesday, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, stated that the former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark will be allowed to appear in front of the panel on Saturday for a new deposition, in light of his sending the new letter to the committee indicating that he intends to claim Fifth Amendment protection.
According to a select committee source, due to Clark’s revised deposition date, the idea is to postpone a full House vote on the contempt report until at least after the weekend.
If Clark responds to the committee’s inquiries by invoking the Fifth Amendment, the panel will almost certainly be forced to halt the process of placing him in criminal contempt, however, if Clark continues to obstruct the committee and invoke the Fifth Amendment in improper ways, a floor vote will be held by the panel as the next week.
Does Pleading the Fifth Mean Getting Away From All the Questions?
Clark’s attempt to exercise his Fifth Amendment right at that stage in the process, according to committee member Jamie Raskin, may indicate eroding trust in the executive privilege argument.
However, the Maryland Democrat emphasized that pleading the Fifth would be a difficult procedure that would still require Clark to answer questions regarding his knowledge of the events leading up to the January 6 attacks.
He goes on to say that a person cannot plead the Fifth to the entirety of the prosecution or to every question that may be asked. As a result, it only applies if you have a specific and reasonable concern that your response may be manipulated against you in criminal prosecution.
The Milestone in Minds
A milestone in the inquiry is the criminal contempt report. The panel believes that even the specter of jail time to the DOJ will entice more Trump-aligned witnesses to participate and cooperate in the case.
If Clark’s previous department decides to prosecute him on criminal contempt charges, he would be the second individual to face serious legal consequences for ignoring the select committee’s requests.
Clark has not formally discussed or brought up the Fifth Amendment in his discussions with the committee, but Thompson believes that his actions are enough to predict that he is going in that direction.
The chairman made it abundantly clear, however, that it would not preclude the committee from proceeding with its preparations to refer him for criminal contempt.