Trump DOJ Flunkie Now Battles COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates At Right-Wing Legal Group

Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference. (Photo by Yuri Gripas-Pool/Getty Images)

It’s a short jump from one Big Lie to another.

The man who Trump sought to appoint as his pocket attorney general is now working for a non-profit that is fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health authorities issued during the pandemic.

Jeffrey Bossert Clark was once assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division who resigned from the DOJ in January amid allegations that he had been part of an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He was fingered in a plot to contort the DOJ to help President Trump deem the election corrupt, allegedly urging senior officials to throw the weight of federal law enforcement behind the bogus fraud claims.

Now, Clark is working as head of strategy and litigation for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a conservative legal group that, per its own description, “strive[s] to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies.”

Over the past year, NCLA has devoted itself to dismantling not only Chevron deference but the state’s response to the pandemic. That’s included lawsuits seeking to end the eviction moratorium, referring to it as a “CDC power grab,” and legal action to end a pandemic emergency authority invoked by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R).

Most recently, however, the group has turned to a different topic: vaccine mandates. It sent a letter in June to George Mason University demanding that a professor who had previously contracted COVID-19 be permitted to use his “natural” immunity and avoid what NCLA described as the “affirmative risk of harm” posed by the vaccine.

“Yet, if he follows his doctor’s advice and chooses not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,
relying on the robust natural immunity that he earned the hard way, he will be forced to abide by the rules governing unvaccinated employees,” the letter reads.

Clark

Clark came to prominence in January 2021, in the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt.

He had been appointed acting chief of the DOJ’s civil division in September 2020, after a two-year stint leading the department’s environment and natural resources division.

Clark had the conspicuous and dubious honor of being the senior-most DOJ official to embrace Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, according to a January New York Times report that is supported by documents that Congress released last week. He reportedly told then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that the DOJ should declare that it was investigating substantial allegations of electoral fraud in the 2020 election, and that Trump would soon dismiss Rosen to name Clark AG.

According to notes released last week by the House Oversight Committee written by former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, Trump told Donoghue and Rosen in a December 2020 phone call that “People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in,” amid a discussion in which Trump unsuccessfully coaxed DOJ leadership to announce that the election was corrupt.

Clark did not return TPM’s request for comment. He has denied plotting to oust Rosen, and pointed out that, as head of the DOJ’s civil division, he was lead signatory on a DOJ court filing that asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit seeking to give Mike Pence the power to overturn the results of the election.

Clark resigned from DOJ on Jan. 14.

Vax

NCLA announced Clark’s appointment last month.

“As I’ve witnessed firsthand, the federal leviathan will continue to surge and swell unless its staggering power is confined within proper channels,” Clark said in a statement about the move, before describing NCLA as “the most vigorous and ascendant group out there battling the Administrative State’s violations of law and restoring the people’s historic liberties.”

That effort appears to be partly manifested in the vaccine case, in which NCLA is representing Antonin Scalia Law School professor Todd Zywicki.

NCLA, in a letter to GMU, poured gasoline on the idea that the vaccine present a risk to those who take it. The group claimed that Zywicki’s natural immunity from having contracted COVID-19 obviates his need for a vaccine, and that, in his case, the vaccine presents an “affirmative risk of harm.” It also issued a press release describing the mandate as a “forced vaccination policy.”

“Forcing faculty who are not vaccinated to wear masks and socially distance impairs their ability to perform their professional duties,” the letter reads. “Face coverings impede a professor’s ability to effectively communicate with students in a lecture environment. A conspicuous face covering also stigmatizes the wearer, and may create irrational fear, anxiety, and animus from students and other faculty.”

The letter included statements from signers of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advised against COVID-19 lockdowns.

Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore City health commissioner, told TPM that while those who recover from COVID have a degree of immunity, vaccines provide longer-lasting, more stable protection.

She added that the group was pushing a message that would likely prolong the pandemic.

“They are undermining public health, undermining public trust,” she said.

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