Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural...

Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, on Sept. 14, 2020. Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark could face sanctions, including disbarment in Washington, D.C., if a three-person panel thinks he violated ethics rules in his role in trying to help former President Donald Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON — The second day of the disciplinary hearing for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark painted a picture of someone who, despite numerous attempts by his superiors to convince him otherwise, remained adamant that there were irregularities and fraud in the 2020 election that required deeper examination.

Testifying Wednesday before the three-member Board of Responsibility, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said he and Richard Donoghue, who had been the acting No. 2, met multiple times with Clark after the 2020 presidential election to urge him to change his stance regarding how the department should handle allegations of voter fraud.

Clark is accused of attempting to engage in dishonest conduct during his role in the aftermath of then-President Donald Trump's 2020 presidential election loss and attempt to overturn the 2020 election. At issue is a letter Clark drafted that said the department was investigating “various irregularities” and had identified “significant concerns” that may have impacted the election. He was trying to persuade Rosen and Donoghue to send the letter to Georgia.

In one meeting the men held with Clark, they asked why he was pushing an issue that was outside his purview as then acting head of the department's civil division.

“Mr. Clark wasn't very forthcoming. He just indicated these were his ideas. He thought they were good ones,” Rosen said.

The pair tried to explain why the department had concluded that while there was fraud and misconduct, it was not enough to have cost Trump the election. In addition, the men learned Clark had spoken with Trump, a violation of department policy on who should have contact with the White House.

Rosen said the meeting ended with Clark saying, “Well, I thought these were good ideas, but if you don’t like them, then OK." Rosen and Donoghue thought Clark had accepted their explanation and the issue was closed.

That was not the case. Clark continued his efforts and maintained contact with Trump.

Rosen changed tack and at one point Clark received a classified briefing from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over an allegation he had heard. Rosen and Donoghue decided to grant him the access and also suggested he speak with a U.S. Attorney in Georgia on how he had pursued allegations there.

“He had expressed interest in the ODNI report, so I thought that was a way to both prevent him from giving poor advice to the president and perhaps to see why it was that the rest of the department had the position we had,” Rosen testified.

Clark did not waver from his stance, disagreeing with the report. He did not contact the U.S. Attorney.

The issue reached a head when Trump considered firing Rosen and replacing him with Clark. That was averted when the senior leaders at the Justice Department and lawyers within the White House said they would quit if Trump took that step.

Rosen's testimony took up most of the day. Clark was called to testify by Hamilton Fox III, the disciplinary counsel at the hearing, over the objections of Clark's attorneys, who indicated their client had made clear he would invoke privilege.

Clark answered the initial questions about when he joined the Washington, D.C., bar and about his work history up until his time at the Justice Department.

He invoked several privileges, including executive privilege, law-enforcement privilege, deliberative-process privilege, attorney-client privilege and the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from providing self-incriminating testimony, during more than 30 minutes of questioning from Fox, focusing on the letter and Clark's role in the aftermath of the election.

At one point, following Fox's questioning, board member Patricia Mathews asked who Clark's client was for his invocation of attorney-client privilege and Clark responded: “President Trump. The head of the executive branch. The sole and the unitary head of Article Two, the executive branch of the United States government.”

One of his lawyers interceded and asked that Clark continue invoking the privileges he used during the rest of questioning.

Clark is facing criminal charges in Georgia for his role in the attempt to overturn the election there. Trump is one of the co-defendants.

Clark could be sanctioned, including possible disbarment. He can appeal any action taken against him to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

His attorney, Harry MacDougald, has said the action being taken against his client for engaging in the normal back and forth between lawyers would have a chilling effect on the profession.

The case resumes Thursday with defense witnesses.

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