Then-Acting Assistant US Attorney General Jeffrey Clark speaks next to then-Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference at the Justice Department in October 2020, in Washington, DC.
CNN  — 

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is using Jeffrey Clark’s refusal to answer questions during a recent deposition and failure to hand over subpoenaed documents to the panel to justify its plan to refer the former top Department of Justice official for criminal contempt of Congress.

The committee’s report outlines why the panel believes Clark is a central figure in the run-up to the riot and accuses him of attempting to use Justice Department authority to overturn the election. The request to refer Clark for possible criminal contempt charges helps to clarify the panel’s definition of cooperation from its witnesses.

The full House would have to vote to hold Clark in criminal contempt of Congress, setting up a referral to the Department of Justice, which would then have to decide whether to prosecute. A decision by Clark’s former department to do so would make him the second person to face a serious legal penalty for blowing off the select committee’s requests.

Former President Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon is currently awaiting trial for a misdemeanor criminal contempt charge after he refused to show up for a deposition or provide documents to the committee, citing executive privilege claims made by former President Donald Trump.

In a 22-page report, the committee said Clark had violated Justice Department policy when he met with Trump to discuss efforts to overturn the 2020 election and, further, held conversations with members of Congress about delegitimizing the election.

The report states that the committee communicated with Clark’s attorneys multiple times, even allowing an extension for them to produce records and appear for a deposition. But when Clark did finally appear, the committee said, his attorney handed the panel’s staff a 12-page letter objecting to almost every question on the grounds that Trump was entitled to confidential legal advice – what Clark’s attorney called a “sacred trust.”

The letter further argued that “the general category of executive privilege, the specific categories of the presidential communications, law enforcement, and deliberative process privileges, as well as attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine, all harmonize on this point,” according to the report.

After being pressed to answer questions that the committee believed wouldn’t justify executive privilege claims, Clark “abruptly left” the deposition.

The documents Clark was asked to hand over included communications with Trump, senior members of the White House, Trump’s reelection campaign, John Eastman – a conservative lawyer working with the then-President’s legal team, and state officials.