For a brief moment in early January 2021, it looked like Jeffrey Clark’s moment in the sun had arrived. He was poised to become a major player in Washington.
All he needed to do was successfully convince then-President Donald Trump to install him as acting attorney general, then demand that key swing states won by Joe Biden send a separate slate of pro-Trump electors to Congress, thus overturning Biden’s Electoral College win.
Up to that point, Clark was, in the eyes of true Washington insiders, a schnook, a comparative nobody.
It wasn’t that he was unaccomplished. Clark had a solid resume as a graduate of Harvard and Georgetown Law, and spent over a decade as a partner at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. He had even been Senate-confirmed. In 2018, Trump nominated Clark to be assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. He was confirmed on a near party-line vote, with opposition due to the fact that Clark, who represented BP in his private practice, was a climate science skeptic. Clark was exactly the type of smart guy with a ceiling that makes up the upper-middle class of Washington policymakers.
But Washington law firms and Nationals Park box seats are jam-packed with unobtrusive Republicans who represent the fossil fuel industry. There are fewer who sought to actively overturn a democratic election and vied to be the hatchet man for an outgoing president determined to stay in power.
The latter part of Clark’s resume is why this particular former bureaucrat will get a different sort of moment in the glaring spotlight on Thursday, when those activities will be a focus of the select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Clark himself won’t be on the witness stand. He appeared before the committee in February, only when he was facing a possible contempt referral after refusing to answer questions at a prior deposition. In that February appearance, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 100 times.
Much of what we know about Clark’s actions comes from a deposition from his former colleague Richard Donoghue, who was also acting assistant attorney general. Clark first approached his boss, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, in late December 2020. Clark reached out to Rosen on December 28 for permission to get a briefing on whether China could control Dominion voting machines via smart thermostat and a draft letter for the Department of Justice to send to key Georgia officials asking them to block certification of the state’s election results. This letter was a model, which, if approved, could be sent to other key states won by Biden as well. Rosen rebuffed him.
However, Clark then went around Rosen, directly to Trump. The Justice Department official had been connected to the then-president by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the head of the hard-right Freedom Caucus and one of Trump’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill.
In a dramatic Oval Office meeting featuring Trump, Clark, and top lawyers from the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office, Clark urged the president to give him his moment in the sun.
“History is calling. This is our opportunity. We can get this done,” Clark said, according to the deposition by Donoghue. Everyone else in the meeting is said to have pushed back against Clark’s attempt to take control of the DOJ. Donoghue, along with Steve Engel, another top DOJ official appointed by Trump, said they would resign if Trump replaced Clark with Rosen.
Donoghue, by his own account, went on to threaten the specter of mass resignations if Trump went through with his plot. “And we’re not the only ones. You should understand that your entire department leadership will resign. … You could have mass resignations amongst your US attorneys. And then it will trickle down from there; you could have resignations across the Department. And what happens if, within 48 hours, we have hundreds of resignations from your Justice Department because of your actions?”
This was echoed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who, according to Donoghue, said at one point in the meeting, “Well, I’m not going to stand for this, I’m not going to be here if it happens either.”
Donoghue said he then denigrated Clark’s legal abilities, telling Trump, “Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general.” After Clark protested and insisted that he was up for the task, Donoghue says he essentially told him to go home and get his shine box.
“That’s right,” retorted Donoghue. “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”
Eventually, Trump blinked. Although he made complaints to Rosen and Donoghue like “You two haven’t done anything” and “Everyone says I should fire you,” he didn’t follow through on his plan to elevate Clark. He announced at the end of the meeting that he was going to let it go. Clark’s moment had passed.
Since leaving the Justice Department, Clark has joined a Trumpist think tank, the Center for Renewing America. However, while he is not likely to wield power anytime soon, he will be the center of attention in Thursday’s hearings. Rosen, Donoghue, and Engel will all testify about Trump’s efforts to weaponize the DOJ to overturn the 2020 election.
There are still questions about Clark’s involvement in the effort to overturn the election, like who else the environmental lawyer was working with as well as the nature of his ties to Perry, that remain unresolved.
As one select committee aide told reporters on Wednesday, “Jeffrey Clark is certainly an important figure when it comes to the pressure campaign against the Department of Justice.”
But despite his best efforts, Clark is unlikely to be an important figure in history. Instead, it appears he will be a bit character who made one bumbling attempt toward relevance, and failed.
District attorneys could be a last defense against abortion bans
District attorneys in more than 10 states where abortion is now banned or likely will be soon have committed to not prosecute people for obtaining abortions, following the Supreme Court’s Friday decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
In a joint statement Friday, more than 80 elected prosecutors argued that doing so would abuse their offices’ limited criminal justice resources, though many are from states that are supportive of abortion rights.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions,” their statement says. “As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
They argue that criminalizing abortion will make the procedure less safe by pushing it underground and isolating those who need it from law enforcement, medical, and social resources, as well as force medical providers to make “impossible decisions.” That’s particularly true in cases of sexual abuse, rape, incest, human trafficking, or domestic violence.
“Prosecutors, police, and our medical partners cannot do our jobs when many victims and witnesses of crime or other emergencies are unwilling to work with us for fear that their private medical decisions will be criminalized,” they said.
District attorneys are becoming a last line of defense for abortion rights as states start to activate preexisting “trigger” laws that were designed to outlaw abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. But there are also limits to how much they can resist bans and shield abortion providers from criminal and financial liability.
District attorneys have more power to shield abortion providers in some states than in others
In some states, those district attorneys will be able to use their extensive legal discretion to decide whether abortion bans will be enforced at the local level. That’s the case in Louisiana, where a trigger ban went into immediate effect Friday that imposes maximum criminal penalties for doctors or others who terminate pregnancies of $200,000 fines and 15 years in jail for late-term abortions.
“District attorneys in Louisiana have unbridled discretion to decide what sorts of cases to prosecute and which sorts of offenses to let go unprosecuted,” Loyola University New Orleans law professor Dane Ciolino told WWL-TV.
Jason Williams, the district attorney for Orleans Parish, Louisiana, has already indicated that he does not intend to enforce the trigger law.
But in other states, including Texas, district attorneys’ refusal to enforce abortion bans may have a limited impact. Under Texas’s trigger law, which will go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its official judgment in the case overturning Roe, the state’s Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, could override local district attorneys and go after abortion providers and funds.
The Texas law creates first- and second-degree felony offenses for providing or aiding in any abortion starting at fertilization that carry up to lifetime prison sentences. Paxton can’t prosecute abortion providers under the law on his own. But he can unilaterally seek potentially ruinous civil penalties — up to $100,000 per abortion — against them.
There’s also no guarantee that a district attorney can protect abortion providers from criminal liability forever. Some are elected and others appointed, so they could be replaced by someone who wants to prosecute providers. Though prosecutors can stem the enforcement of trigger laws somewhat, there’s only so much they can do now that Roe has been overturned.
Mississippi gas storage facility sending half a ton of methane into the atmosphere every hour
A small gas storage facility in Petal, Mississippi, is making a big impact when it comes to methane emissions. According to Inside Climate News, the station owned by Gulf South Pipeline and its parent company, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, sends half a ton of methane into the atmosphere every hour. Recent data for the facility marks Petal Gas Storage as the top emitter of its kind, pumping out three-and-a-half times more methane emissions than any other gas storage station in the U.S.—and that’s just self-reported emissions. As with any aspect of the oil and gas industry, there’s little transparency and accountability to be had for companies like Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, which operates across many Gulf states, its more than 13,000 mile-long pipelines extending from Texas to Ohio.
There’s also little enforcement. As Inside Climate News notes, the Environmental Protection Agency tends to take a relatively mild approach to handling emissions issues from facilities like Petal and hasn’t really fought back, despite Boardwalk Pipeline Partners’ utter inability to follow industry recommendations released some 16 years ago. All of the blame truly lies with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, as 99% of leaks leading to super-emitting events came from operational error, namely issues with reciprocating compressors that use pistons to compress gas. A component in those compressors known as isolation valves were more often than not found to be faulty, allowing for vast tons of methane to leak out.
EXCLUSIVE: “[Obama] Kept Calling Things a Bump in the Road..[He Was] a Bump in Our Road Because America Will Be Great Again” – Gold Star Mother of Navy Seal Aaron Vaughn
Click to Watch: The Truth about January 6th Documentary
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