There was… a lot of legal news yesterday. The Supreme Court gutted Miranda rights, they also gave guns more rights than women — citing Dred Scott favorably in the process. Kirkland and Paul Clement broke up. Goodwin Procter squandered their diversity goodwill in the name of politeness. It was a lot.
But still, not a great reason to ignore major legal news… like wannabe acting Attorney General Jeffrey Clark getting the predawn raid treatment. That’s right, a man inside the Trump administration, who was allegedly working overtime to steal the election for Donald Trump, was treated to all the indignities the FBI can dish out, ushered into the street in his pajamas. (Which is admittedly bullshit, but far from a new tactic for the federal government.)
That was before the 5th installment of the January 6th Committee’s hearings became a Jeffrey Clark pile on. Clark himself pleaded the Fifth Amendment over 100 times, but he was the focus of pretty much everyone else’s testimony. We heard testimony how acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen refused to go along with the false claims of election fraud, prompting Trump to float installing Clark in his stead (given Clark’s willingness to go along with the Big Lie).
Clark was pulled seemingly from out of nowhere (more accurately from the Environment and Natural Resources Division), and thrown into the election fray. How he garnered Trump’s attention remains unclear, but he was willing to — repeatedly — go behind his boss’s (Rosen) back to pursue the false claims of voter fraud.
But the only qualification Trump was reportedly looking for was dogged determination to pursue election lies.
However that plan was met with a sharp reaction at the DOJ. We heard testimony from Deputy Attorney General Rich Donoghue that such a move would trigger mass resignations.
And Clark was treated to some (deserved) harsh responses inside Trumpland.
And somehow convincing Trump that Clark — not voter fraud — would become the story averted this particular crisis.
All of which is to say environmental lawyers are getting a bad rap. Listen, Clark seems like the worst kind of lackey, but the way “environmental lawyer” was bandied about like an insult synonymous with incompetence and/or a lack qualifications is kinda strange. To be clear, one does not need a specific prosecutorial background in order to be acting AG or even a fully confirmed Attorney General. Ask Bill Barr. And John Mitchell was a municipal bond attorney before getting the nod to be Richard Nixon’s AG… of course, he went on to serve 19 months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, so maybe not the best example for Clark.
But, yes, let’s remember there are plenty of insults that can be lobbed at Clark that have nothing to do with his practice area.
Like how his craven desire for power continues even now — despite the obvious legal peril Clark’s facing — he appeared on the Tucker Carlson show last night. Which is the exact kind of move a good lawyer might counsel his client against.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).