Steve Bannon – who is reportedly under criminal investigation in New York – was always going to be highly hesitant to testify to the January 6th Committee, for fear of further incriminating himself in the process. In fact Palmer Report has wondered aloud if the committee made a point of going after Bannon first, knowing he wouldn’t comply, so it could make an example out of him and scare other more valuable witnesses into cooperating.
Sure enough, just twenty-four hours after the House referred Bannon to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark has suddenly agreed to testify. In fact, according to CNN, Clark has agreed to testify as soon as next week.
This testimony is a major coup, from a witness that we (and many others) expected would be hesitant to cooperate. Did Clark suddenly agree to testify because he’s afraid of also being referred to the DOJ for criminal prosecution? There’s no way to know for sure, but it sure feels like it.
In any case, Jeffrey Clark is a big fish. He was the DOJ official who conspired with Donald Trump to try to convince the DOJ leadership to ask the Supreme Court to overthrow the 2020 election result. The Trump-Clark scheme didn’t come close to working; it was shut down by the Acting Attorney General and others at the DOJ, and even if it hadn’t been, the Supreme Court ended up unanimously shutting Trump down anyway. But the Trump-Clark effort ended up serving as the basis for Trump’s false claims of a “rigged” election, and helped lead to the January 6th insurrection.
Clark’s testimony will likely end up being something of a mixed bag. He certainly has to be worried about incriminating himself with his testimony, so he may invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to some of the dicier questions. He also may try to paint things as much in his own favor as he can, just shy of committing actual perjury.
But this isn’t about getting perfect testimony from Clark. This is about getting him to testify at all, so the viewing public can be made more aware of just how ugly January 6th was, and just how directly Donald Trump was involved in planning and inciting it. It’s a huge victory for the committee that Clark is promptly testifying, rather than trying to drag it out. Looks like the hammer the committee dropped on Bannon is producing results already.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report