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Jan. 6 panel subpoenas a Trump ally who promised to pursue his election fraud claims

Former DOJ official, Jeff Clark, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.
Susan Walsh
Former DOJ official, Jeff Clark, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

Updated October 13, 2021 at 6:55 PM ET

The Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena Wednesday for an ex-Justice Department official who had promised to pursue former President Donald Trump's false election fraud claims.

The official, Jeffrey Clark, was a key figure in a recent Senate report detailing Trump's attempts to enlist the department in his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump had considered replacing his acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey Rosen, with Clark, who was in a lower-ranking position.

"The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results," Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement. "We need to understand Mr. Clark's role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration."

In a letter, the select panel is directing Clark to produce records by and to testify on Oct. 29.

Among the details from the recent Senate Judiciary Committee report, Clark had proposed delivery of a letter to Georgia state lawmakers and others to push for a delay in certifying election results, the House select committee noted. Clark also recommended holding a press conference announcing the Justice Department was investigating allegations of voter fraud despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud.

Those plans were rejected by top leaders at the department.

Deposition days

The new subpoena comes a day before deadlines begin for four former Trump officials to appear before the committee. The panel issued its first round of subpoenas several weeks ago to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, political strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, who was chief of staff to former-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.

Bannon and Patel are due to testify Thursday, followed by Meadows and Scavino on Friday. However, it is unclear whether any of them will comply.

The committee has said Meadows and Patel are in talks with the panel. But Bannon has already said he would not be cooperating, pointing to executive privilege as a shield allowing him to skip the demands, the committee said last week.

"Mr. Bannon has indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President," a statement from Thompson and the ranking committee Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said last week.

A statement issued Wednesday via Erica Knight, a spokeswoman for Patel, confirmed that talks with the panel are ongoing, but didn't say if he will ultimately testify.

"I am continuing to engage with the Committee, and placing a high priority on keeping matters confidential for safety reasons," the statement read.

Patel has received death threats after his subpoena was issued, Knight said.

Trump has directed the four former administration officials to protect certain conversations and records from the investigation as a result of executive privilege.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Trump, Taylor Budowich, rejected reports that Trump directed the four not to comply outright with the committee's subpoenas. Rather, he directed related queries to his recent tweet saying executive privilege protects certain conversations and records from being shared with the panel.

"President Trump has instructed individuals to honor conversations and documents covered by executive privilege to the extent permissible by law," Budowich said in the Oct. 10 tweet.

The latest efforts come after the panel in recent weeks issued subpoenas for the right-wing Stop the Steal group and nearly a dozen other organizers behind the rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Those followed requests to dozens of social media and tech companies to preserve and turn over records, along with several federal agencies. The panel has said it has since received "thousands of pages of documents."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claudia Grisales
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.