Capitol Riot

Feds Search Home of Ex-DOJ Official Trump Wanted to Install to Help With Election Scheme

Jefferey Clark will be the center of the Jan. 6 committee hearing on Thursday

Jeff Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, September 14, 2020.

Federal law enforcement investigators were at the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who then-President Donald Trump sought to install as attorney general after leaders at the agency refused to go along with Trump's bogus election fraud claims.

A U.S. Attorney office spokesman confirmed to NBC News the activity took place on Wednesday. The spokesman had no comment regarding the reason for the activity.

Clark will be a central figure in Thursday's Jan. 6 Committee hearing.

Then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen is expected to testify about a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump contemplated replacing him with Clark, a lower-level official who'd joined the department in 2018 as its chief environmental lawyer and was later appointed to run its civil division.

Clark, according to statements from other Justice Department officials, met with Trump despite being ordered not to by bosses at the department and presented himself as eager to aid the president's efforts to challenge the election results. A report released last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee that painted Clark as a relentless advocate for Trump included a draft letter pushing Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session to reconsider the election results.

Clark wanted the letter sent, but superiors at the Justice Department refused.

In taped testimony to the House special committee on the U.S. Capitol Riot, former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr expressed concerns he had over “how crazy” former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims appeared.

The situation came to a head on Jan. 3, 2021, a Sunday, when Clark informed Rosen in a private meeting at the Justice Department that Trump wanted to replace him with Clark as acting attorney general. Rosen, according to the Senate report, responded that “there was no universe I could imagine in which that would ever happen" and that he would not accept being fired by a subordinate.

Rosen then contacted the White House to request a meeting. That night, Rosen, his top deputy Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, along with Clark, gathered with Trump and top White House lawyers for a contentious, hours-long Oval Office meeting about whether the president should follow through with his plans for a radical leadership change at the department.

According to testimony given by Rosen, Trump opened the meeting by saying, “One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election.”

Donoghue and Engel made clear to Trump that they and large numbers of other Justice Department officials would resign if Trump fired Rosen. White House lawyers said the same. Pat Cipollone, then the White House counsel, said the letter that Clark wanted to send was a “murder-suicide pact.”

“Steve Engel at one point said, ‘Jeff Clark will be leading a graveyard. And what are you going to get done with a graveyard,’ that there would be such an exodus of the leadership,” Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “So it was very strongly worded to the president that that would happen.”

In his Jan. 6 hearing testimony, White House counsel Eric Herschmann recalled demanding an ‘orderly transition’ the day after the Capitol riot.

Donoghue also sought to dissuade Trump from believing that Clark had the legal background to do as the president wished since he was not a criminal prosecutor at the department.

“And he kind of retorted by saying, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation, and things like that,’” Donoghue said. “And I said, ‘That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.’”

This is a live update. Click here for complete coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings.

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