Trump Justice official Clark faces ethics hearing over 2020 election role

By Thomson Reuters Mar 26, 2024 | 5:12 AM

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jeffrey Clark, a senior official in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, faces the prospect of losing his license to practice law as a Washington legal ethics panel begins to hear evidence on Tuesday about his bid to enlist the Justice Department in Trump’s attempt to undo his 2020 election loss.

Clark, who served as acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division under Trump, faces a multi-day hearing on ethics charges that accuse him of attempting to take actions “involving dishonesty” and that “would seriously interfere with the administration of justice.”

Clark, who has denied violating legal ethics rules, wrote on social media on Monday that he is being targeted “because I am a Trump supporter who questioned the 2020 election.”

The hearing is being held by a three-member committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility, an arm of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. If it finds that Clark violated ethics rules, it could recommend that his license be suspended or revoked. The full board would take up such a recommendation, with final action in the hands of the appeals court.

The District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates lawyers accused of violating legal ethics rules, brought the case against Clark.

Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election. Trump faces criminal charges in state court in Georgia and federal court in Washington over his attempts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden.

Clark is one of Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia case and has pleaded not guilty. Clark is listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the federal case. The ethics panel is expected to delve into incidents relevant to those cases.

Trump tried to put Clark in charge of the Justice Department in his administration’s final days as he pushed false claims of widespread voter fraud in the election.

Clark attempted to send a letter to Georgia officials in December 2020 falsely claiming that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” that may have led to Trump’s loss in that state, according to charges filed in 2022.

Justice Department leaders found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and refused to send the letter. Trump backed off his plan to name Clark as acting attorney general after department leaders and top White House lawyers threatened to resign in protest.

Two of Clark’s Justice Department superiors – former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, have cooperated with the ethics probe and are expected to testify during the hearing.

Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, an outspoken Trump ally, and former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows may testify on Clark’s behalf, his lawyers said.

Similar ethics cases are being pursued in Washington against Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer, and three other lawyers involved in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; editing by Will Dunham and Andy Sullivan)