Why it matters that the feds showed up at Jeffrey Clark’s door

When it comes to Team Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the Justice Department had a busy day yesterday. Federal agents conducted “court-authorized law enforcement activity” at a variety of locations, showing up at the homes of a variety of Republican officials, including aides who worked with and for Donald Trump’s campaign.

Today’s news, however, is a qualitatively bigger deal. The New York Times reported:

Federal investigators descended on the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, on Wednesday in connection with the department’s sprawling inquiry into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the matter. It remained unclear exactly what the investigators may have been looking for, but Mr. Clark was central to President Donald J. Trump’s unsuccessful effort in late 2020 to strong-arm the nation’s top prosecutors into supporting his claims of election fraud.

A U.S. Attorney’s office spokesperson confirmed to NBC News that the law enforcement activity took place yesterday.

Clark may not be a household name, but when it comes to understanding the Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, few witnesses are as important.

For those who may need a refresher, in late 2020, Clark was the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division. Trump, however, had a different role in mind for him: The then-president considered a plan in which he’d fire the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replace him with Clark as part of a scheme to intensify the Justice Department’s anti-election efforts.

Trump was prepared to do this because Clark, unlike Rosen, was telling the then-president what he wanted to hear about keeping him in power, despite his defeat. Indeed, Clark sketched out a map for Republican legislators to follow as part of the partisan plot, even as he quietly pressed Trump to put him in charge of the Justice Department.

Trump ultimately backed away from the plan to make Clark the acting A.G., not because the plan was stark raving mad — though it certainly was — but because the Justice Department’s senior leadership team threatened to resign en masse if Rosen was ousted. Trump decided such tumult would “eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud.”

This wasn’t just some random thought experiment. The New York Times reported last year that there was a “bizarre” presidential meeting in January 2021 in which Rosen and Clark made competing presentations, which “officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show ‘The Apprentice,’ albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.”

Not surprisingly, the bipartisan House committee investigating Jan. 6 came up with a few questions for Clark. Their first interaction didn’t go especially well: Investigators sat down with the Republican lawyer in November, but according to the panel, he was not cooperative. In fact, Clark reportedly asserted attorney-client privilege, despite the fact that Trump was never Clark’s client.

That was last fall. A few months later, investigators tried again, and by some accounts, Clark pleaded the Fifthmore than 100 times.

And now, federal agents have shown up at Clark’s home.

There are plenty of relevant details about this that we do not yet know, including whether officials were executing a search warrant. If they were, that would mean that a judge found enough evidence of possible criminal misconduct to sign off on a warrant.

Also note, Clark’s alleged schemes are scheduled to be discussed in more detail at this afternoon’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, raising the possibility that the Justice Department scrambled to act before today’s disclosures.

Watch this space.

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