The chief investigative counsel for the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack wants to ask Jeffrey Clark about White House involvement in the drafting of an incriminating letter that the former Trump DOJ official wanted to send to Georgia officials, with the goal of overturning the state’s presidential election results. This story was first reported on The Rachel Maddow Show on Friday night.

The House panel released a transcript of Clark’s Nov. 5 deposition before the committee. Clark refused to answer any substantive questions and walked out of the room after an hour and a half with his attorney Harry MacDougald.

But after Clark and MacDougald left, the hearing continued, with the Select Committee’s chief investigative counsel, whose name is redacted, asserting that he wanted to put on the record the questions he had intended to ask Clark about the draft letter to Georgia legislative officials that asked them to convene a special session and appoint an alternate slate of electors.

The unnamed counsel then dropped this bombshell:

“I also wanted to ask him about metadata in that draft letter that indicates some involvement with the White House Communications Agency and the drafting or preparation of that letter.”

That indicates that the House committee has evidence indicating that Clark was not just acting on his own in drafting the letter, but was coordinating with officials at the White House in its preparation.

I did some research on my own about the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). It has nothing to do with the White House Communications Director, whose office is responsible for promoting the president’s agenda and leading his media campaign. Instead, the White House Communications Agency is a military unit staffed by non-commissioned officers (NCOs) from all branches of the armed forces, who provide communications support to the president and his staff.

Here’s how The Washington Post described the WHCA in 2017:

The mission of the White House Communications Agency is to prevent eavesdropping on presidential communications and to ensure that White House officials can be securely reached worldwide at a moment’s notice.

The NCOs staffing the WHCA set up secure communications at the behest of the president and his top staff. That likely means that Trump and/or his top aides were involved in drafting or preparing the incriminating letter, using the most secure channels of communication with Clark.

The deposition transcript shows that the House counsel wanted to ask Clark about the “strongly negative” response to his proposed letter from then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

The counsel further noted that Rosen’s top deputy Richard Donaghue considered Clark’s letter to be “factually inaccurate” because the DOJ was not investigating serious allegations of election fraud, and that it would be inappropriate for the department to suggest that a state convene its legislature in special session to overturn its election results.

Clark played a key role in President Donald Trump’s efforts in the days before the Jan. 6 insurrection to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, meeting with the president outside the DOJ chain of command.

Rosen and Donaghue have already testified before the House Select Committee as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported that Trump was ready to install Clark as acting attorney general in place of Rosen, but was talked out of doing so at a Jan. 3 White House meeting—when Rosen and other top DOJ officials, as well as White House counsel Pat Cipollone, all threatened to resign if he did so.

On Wednesday, the select committee approved a report to hold Clark in contempt of Congress for defying his subpoena to answer questions during his Nov. 5 deposition, as well as failing to hand over documents to the panel. The committee ultimately decided to delay sending the contempt of Congress recommendation to the full House for a vote after Clark agreed to appear for a second deposition.

That deposition was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was delayed until Dec. 16 after Clark reported  a medical condition left him unable to testify. California Rep. Adam Schiff, a committee member, said the panel was satisfied that Clark’s medical condition is genuine.

In a letter to the committee, Clark’s lawyer said his client intends to claim his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination at the second deposition.

On Thursday, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, reacted to Clark’s intention to invoke the Fifth in his deposition.

“People sort of talk about the Fifth Amendment without stopping to think about what he is saying if he invokes the Fifth — that he won’t answer a question because he’s worried about criminal prosecution,” Cheney said.

“And if you think about that in the context of questions we’re asking — which have to do with his discussions with President Trump about the election — and if he feels that he can’t answer those questions about discussions with Donald Trump because he’s worried that he could be facing criminal prosecution, the American people deserve to know that,” she added.

Another conservative lawyer, John Eastman, has also said that he intended to plead the Fifth Amendment in response to a subpoena from the select committee. Eastman wrote a memo with the dubious claim that Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to overturn the 2020 election.

If both lawyers are concerned that their testimony might implicate them in some crime, that raises the question of whether Attorney General Merrick Garland has launched an investigation into Eastman and Clark and will eventually convene a grand jury. Trying to fraudulently interfere with an election can be both a federal and a state crime.

If the White House was involved in helping Clark draft the baseless letter intended for Georgia officials, it could be important in another case. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating whether Trump and his cronies broke Georgia state law by trying to overturn the presidential election results in that state.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in November that Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of Trump. Her probe is focused on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes needed to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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