A group of high-profile lawyers on Tuesday called for the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals to investigate Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice official, for his efforts to have the DOJ declare the 2020 election results unreliable.
Clark, the letter said, violated professional rules against dishonesty when he attempted to weaponize the DOJ in Donald Trump’s effort to steal a second term as president.
“Mr. Clark’s actions were based on falsehoods with no factual support and were designed to advance his own personal and political interests at the expense of his client, the government of the United States,” the lawyers wrote.
“This complaint is not about politics, political beliefs or political alliances,” they added. “It is instead about law, in the form of ethical rules that govern the conduct of every lawyer who practices in the District of Columbia, from the solo practitioner to the Attorney General of the United States. There is substantial evidence that Mr. Clark violated those rules as he took deliberate steps that seriously risked electoral chaos and a constitutional crisis.”
Among the letter’s signatories were Stuart M. Gerson, the former acting attorney general and George H.W. Bush administration official, Norm Eisen, a co-counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearing, Debra Katz, a civil rights lawyer known recently for representing Christine Blasey Ford, and several others.
The letter focuses in on Clark’s actions at the DOJ in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, when as acting head of the DOJ’s Civil Division, he pressured the then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to sign a letter falsely declaring that the DOJ had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.”
The Clark letter also prompted Georgia leaders to call a special legislative session so that lawmakers could “receive new evidence.”
The DOJ had not found any such concerns, as Clark “must have known,” the attorneys calling for an ethics probe said. After all, former Attorney General Bill Barr had said so himself before leaving office, they noted. Multiple DOJ officials tasked with monitoring malfeasance in the 2020 election found no evidence of it, they noted.
“It is inconceivable that Mr. Clark was unaware of those facts when he made his proposal to Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue,” Tuesday’s letter alleged. “But even if the facts had somehow escaped him, his proposal recklessly violated Rule 8.4(c).” The rule, part of the D.C. Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct, prohibits conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
“It is difficult to think of graver, more disruptive or more consequential interference with the administration of justice than what Mr. Clark was proposing,” the lawyers argued Tuesday.
The letter also focused on Clark’s reported role in Trump’s behind-the-scenes efforts to have the DOJ meddle further in the election results, including a meeting in which Trump pressured Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” according to Donoghue’s notes.
With Rosen and Donoghue resisting his efforts to steal a second term, Trump reportedly considered replacing Rosen and putting Clark atop the DOJ; Trump was only dissuaded from the idea after he learned of the prospect of mass resignations from DOJ rank-and-file in protest of the move.
Both Donaghue and Rosen have testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Clark’s machinations, and Rosen has also reportedly met with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Horowitz was cc’ed on the ethics complaint Tuesday, as was the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The letter was organized by Lawyers Defending American Democracy, a group launched in 2019 “to defend the underlying constitutional values and norms of political behavior on which our democracy depends.” It has since filed ethics complaints against Rudy Giuliani, former Attorney General Bill Barr and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“We urge the [Office of Disciplinary Counsel] to address the conduct of Mr. Clark with the same seriousness, dispatch, and transparency exhibited by these other tribunals,” they wrote.