Clark attempts to convince judge to move Georgia charges to federal court
An attorney for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark attempted Monday to convince a judge to move Clark’s Georgia charges to federal court, arguing that his attempt to help overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results was part of Clark’s job duties.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones held a hearing in Atlanta regarding whether to move Clark’s charges after he was indicted alongside former President Trump and 17 others last month in a sprawling racketeering indictment. They have all pleaded not guilty.
The legal battle largely centers on whether Clark, who oversaw the Justice Department’s environmental division and, in an acting capacity, the civil division, was acting within the scope of his duties when he sought to send a letter to Georgia officials raising baseless concerns of mass election fraud.
Prosecutors have alleged Clark knew the letter included a false statement, also claiming that Clark’s superiors at the Justice Department told him it was a lie and that neither he nor the department had authority to make the fraud claims.
“What I’m saying is, lawyers can disagree about that without being put in prison,” Harry MacDougald, Clark’s attorney, said at the hearing, according to The Associated Press.
MacDougald also reportedly said the Justice Department had already been examining the fraud claims prior to Clark’s involvement in the issue.
“The Rubicon had already been crossed,” MacDougald said, the AP reported.
Court filings show Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s (D) office subpoenaed for the hearing Jody Hunt, who ran the Justice Department’s civil rights division prior to Clark.
Prosecutors have pushed back on Clark’s assertion that he was acting within the scope of his job duties, which is one of the necessary criteria for him to move his charges.
Hunt testified that the civil division had no role in investigating election interference or fraud, according to the AP.
If successful, the move would enable Clark to attempt to dismiss his charges by asserting immunity. His case would also be overseen by a federal judge, and the jury pool would be drawn from a northern Georgia area less heavily Democratic than Fulton County.
Jones previously rejected Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s attempt to move his own charges after finding the allegations against him were political activities outside of his White House responsibilities. Meadows is now appealing.
Jones has said he will consider each defendant’s request independently, but the Meadows ruling could suggest an uphill battle for Clark and three other defendants making similar demands, who will have their hearing Wednesday.
Meadows unexpectedly took the stand at his hearing, but Clark waived his appearance Monday, court filings show.
Clark did, however, sign a 12-page affidavit ahead of the hearing. But the judge on Monday refused to consider it after prosecutors raised concerns about being able to cross-examine Clark’s claims, according to the AP.
Clark’s attorneys also submitted an affidavit from Edwin Meese, attorney general under former President Reagan, who supported the notion that Clark’s letter efforts were part of his job and constitutionally protected.
“The prosecution of the President and an [assistant attorney general] is a major affront to federal supremacy never before seen in the history of our country,” Meese wrote.
—Updated at 3:58 p.m.