It was striking enough to see one Republican lawyer close to Donald Trump plead the Fifth as part of the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, but the story became even more extraordinary last week when another Republican lawyer close to the former president said he's also asserting his right against self-incrimination.
In theory, this might make it seem as if there's little to be learned, at least at the public level, about what the lawyers know or how they might advance our understanding of post-election events. But in practice, as Rachel explained on Friday night's show, some important revelations are coming to the fore anyway.
Let's start with Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who tried to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election by sketching out a map for Republican legislators to follow in which they could try to overturn the will of voters. Last week, Clark told the Jan. 6 committee through his attorney that he'd sit down with investigators, at which point he'd "claim Fifth Amendment protection" against self-incrimination. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the bipartisan panel, said soon after that given the nature of the Fifth Amendment, "Obviously, [Clark] is aware that something went on that is illegal."
But what hasn't generated much attention is the fact that Clark actually already spoke to the committee once — and didn't plead the Fifth. In fact, we know this for sure because the bipartisan panel released a transcript of what happened when the former Justice Department official showed up for a deposition.
By any fair measure, the conversation did not go well. Clark and his attorney refused to cooperate, and refused to say why he wouldn't cooperate. Eventually, during the scheduled Q&A, Clark and his lawyer literally got up and left before the deposition was over.
But then something interesting happened, which went entirely overlooked in the media coverage: According to the official transcript, committee counsel realized he couldn't ask questions of a witness who'd left the room, but he decided to read into the record the questions he intended to explore with Clark.
It wasn't a short list. The committee's lawyers wanted to explore Clark's use of a personal email account, his direct communications with Trump, his direct communications with people close to Trump, etc. Toward the end of this exercise, the committee's chief investigative counsel added:
"I also wanted to ask him about metadata in that draft letter that indicates some involvement with the White House Communications Agency and the drafting or preparation of that letter."
In context, the draft letter in question referred to Clark's correspondence to Georgia, recommending that Republican officials in the state effectively flip the election results in Trump's favor, despite the fact that the then-president lost the state. The chief investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee was eager to ask the former Justice Department official about apparent metadata in Clark's draft that indicated White House involvement with the letter's drafting.
That's striking in its own right, but we can take this a step further. According to members of the House select panel, it may be illegal to try to overturn a lawful American election. Clark has been accused of such an effort, and after the committee released its transcript — at which point he and his lawyers got to see some of the other questions that investigators want him to answer — it was then that he announced that he'd plead the Fifth in the next round of Q&A.
And as part of that effort, there's also now reason to believe the Trump White House had "some involvement" with "the drafting or preparation" of the controversial letter Clark wrote. As Rachel added on the show, "It's one thing to commit a crime, it's another thing to commit a crime in cahoots with the White House."
Clark was scheduled to sit down with the committee over the weekend, but his lawyer told investigators that he could not participate due to a medical issue.
As for the other lawyer in Trump's orbit, there's also interest in John Eastman, who worked directly with the former Republican president, before he exited the White House. Eastman also allegedly played a direct role in trying to pressure states not to send Democratic electors, even after the Democratic ticket won those states.
The Arizona Republic reported on Friday that Rusty Bowers, the Republican state House Speaker in the Grand Canyon State, rejected the scheme and "rebuffed a request" from Eastman, who wanted the GOP legislator "to help test a legal argument that state legislators had the authority to replace presidential electors at their discretion."
According to the article, when Eastman reached out to Bowers, the lawyer said he was representing Trump.
And now Eastman is also pleading Fifth in response to the bipartisan congressional investigation.
Watch this space.