Top Justice Department and White House officials eviscerated Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark during a high-stakes Oval Office meeting in early January 2021, where then-President Donald Trump considered installing Clark as attorney general so he could use the powers of the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election.
“I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general. He’s never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He’s never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury,” former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said in a video deposition clip that was played Thursday, recalling what he told Trump during the critical Oval Office meeting.
Donoghue said he told Clark, “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”
Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said Clark was repeatedly “clobbered over the head” during the meeting. He said that he explicitly told Clark that he was breaking the law, according to his videotaped deposition with the committee, a clip of which was played on Thursday.
“f*cking a-hole, congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you would take as attorney general would be committing a felony,” Herschmann said.
Herschmann later tested that he thought Clark’s plan was “nuts” and told the panel that he told Clark, “the best I can tell is the only thing you know about environmental and election challenges it they both start with E. And based on your answers tonight, I’m not even certain you know that.”
According to Donoghue, then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said during the meeting that Clark’s plan to send letters to battleground states, encouraging them to interfere with the election results, was a “murder-suicide pact.”
During the Oval Office meeting, these officials pummeled Clark’s ideas, even as he kept trying to explain to Trump that he would uncover widespread fraud if he was put in charge of the Justice Department. These officials successfully persuaded Trump to back away from the plan to fire then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and promote Clark.