Reviews | Can Jeffrey Clark keep his law degree?
The following month, the DC Bar initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.
Even with all of that, Clark’s startling and overblown response to the DC bar inquiry, released Monday, offers shocking new evidence of just how insane the man who nearly became attorney general really is.
Clark was assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources and who, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, was put in charge of the civil division. President Donald Trump wanted him in the top job because Clark — unlike the rest of the department’s hierarchy — was impatient and willing to pursue Trump’s bogus claims that he had won the election.
Attorney General William P. Barr, before resigning in December 2020, claimed there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to affect the results. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, the acting number two, agreed with that conclusion.
That didn’t deter Clark, even though it was well outside of his job description. He wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other state officials saying the department has “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the election outcome in multiple states”, and urging them to reconvene the legislature in extraordinary session.
Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign, telling Clark there was no such evidence; Clark persisted to the point of telling Rosen that Trump would appoint Clark as attorney general in his place so the letter could be sent. The whole plan only went off the rails after Trump faced mass resignation threats at the Justice Department.
Enter, months later, the authorities of the DC bar. In June, the Office of the Disciplinary Council of the Bar found that Georgia’s letter contained numerous misrepresentations and thereby violated ethics rules prohibiting attorneys from engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty” and “conduct that would seriously interfere with the administration of justice.”
Clark’s letter, the bar complaint says, “said the Justice Department had” identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including Georgia. This assertion was false. The Department was not aware of any allegations of voter fraud in Georgia that affected the results of the presidential election.
This is an unusual, even aggressive, use of the bar’s disciplinary power. For one thing, Clark’s letter to Kemp was not sent. The ethics rules cover attempts to engage in unethical conduct, and Clark’s relentless efforts to submit a document he was told was false could fall within their scope. Still, reaching inside the Justice Department’s internal disputes to control lawyers’ conduct is a major step.
Additionally, the criminal investigation into Clark is still ongoing, along with an investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General. After the Watergate scandal, some Nixon administration officials have lost their law licensesbut these actions have generally taken place as a result of criminal prosecutions.
Thus, Clark could have serious arguments to make in response to the complaint to the bar, which will now be examined by a disciplinary council. Instead, he submitted a response, the public version of which is partly redacted, consisting of 54 “defenses,” one more outlandish than the next. It was signed, among others, by Catholic University law professor Robert A. Destro, who served as assistant secretary of state during the Trump administration and who on January 6 met at the State Department two leading election deniers.
The document reads like something the Federalist Society would submit if it had created an artificial intelligence program to draft pleadings. The bar does not have the power to discipline Clark, because doing so would “infringe on the president’s exclusive and irreversible authority over federal criminal and civil investigations conducted while in office.” The bar cannot act “because the president has an absolute right to seek legal and other advice as to the exercise of his responsibilities under the precautionary clause.”
Disciplining Clark “would impinge on the president’s exclusive and unreviewable power to remove and appoint senior Justice Department officials.” This would violate the separation of powers, the supremacy clause, the confrontation clause, the equal protection clause, the due process clause and the prohibition on credentials.
Further, he argues, it would trample on executive privilege, law enforcement privilege, the major issues doctrine, the political issues doctrine, Clark’s “official immunity” and his freedom of action. ‘expression. Trump’s acquittal by the Senate on his second impeachment bars the charges. Even Hunter Biden’s laptop makes a surprise appearance.
It’s the constitutional equivalent of throwing a large pot of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. “A lot of his defenses are frivolous, garbage, goofy,” said University of Washington law professor Kathleen Clark, an expert in legal ethics.
This man was almost Attorney General – in fact, in his argument he argues that he was, for a brief period. Watch this space – and beware of a second Trump administration.