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Trump ally Clark broke ethics rule in election subversion attempts, panel rules

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Attorney Jeffrey Clark, who held a senior role in the U.S. Justice Department during Donald Trump’s presidency, should face professional discipline over his effort to enlist the agency in the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, a Washington legal panel concluded on Thursday.

The finding, which is preliminary, followed several days of testimony on Clark’s attempt to take charge of the Justice Department in the final days of Trump’s term as he sought to block certification of his defeat to Democratic President Joe Biden using false claims of rampant voter fraud.

The three-member committee of the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility, which handles attorney ethics cases in the U.S. capital, determined Clark’s conduct violated at least one attorney ethics rule.

A lawyer for Clark denied that he violated any ethics rule, arguing there was an internal dispute within the Justice Department about the election.

The panel will recommend a specific sanction later, which could include suspending or revoking Clark’s law license. Any sanction must first be approved by the full board and a Washington appeals court.

Hamilton “Phil” Fox, the head of the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which brought the charges, said he would seek to have Clark disbarred.

Clark, who served as acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division under Trump, faced two legal ethics charges accusing him of attempting to take actions “involving dishonesty” that “would seriously interfere with the administration of justice.”

Clark proposed sending a letter to Georgia’s governor and top state lawmakers in December 2020 falsely asserting the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” that may have tipped the election in Georgia and other states, according to D.C.’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

The letter urged state lawmakers to convene to investigate purported election irregularities and consider sending a slate of presidential electors for Trump despite Biden’s win in the state.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft)