Former President Donald Trump’s attorney Justin Clark interviewed with federal investigators two weeks ago, the Justice Department revealed in a court filing early Monday morning, a significant development that could reverberate in multiple investigations facing Trump’s inner circle.
DOJ prosecutors revealed the June 29 FBI interview in a court filing connected to the criminal contempt case of Steve Bannon, who is set to go on trial July 18 for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee. After stonewalling the committee for eight months, Bannon reversed course on Saturday, suggesting Trump had “waived” claims of executive privilege and permitted him to testify. Trump signed a letter supporting Bannon’s reversal and claimed to “waive” executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said that Clark had confirmed in his June 29 interview what DOJ long suspected: that Trump had never invoked executive privilege to block Bannon from testifying.
“The Defendant’s timing suggests that the only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena in October 2021 is that he is finally about to face the consequences of his decision to default,” Vaughn wrote.
“All of the above-described circumstances suggest the Defendant’s sudden wish to testify is not a genuine effort to meet his obligations but a last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability.”
According to Vaughn, Clark contradicted multiple claims by Bannon and his defense team, which had long cited correspondence with Clark as the basis for Bannon’s contention that Trump had claimed executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony and records.
Instead, Vaughn said, Clark told DOJ “that the former President never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials; that the former President’s counsel never asked or was asked to attend the Defendant’s deposition before the Select Committee; that the Defendant’s attorney misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s attorney; and that the former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance.”
Vaughn noted that DOJ provided Bannon’s team with an FBI report of Clark’s interview on June 30, the day after it was conducted.
It’s unclear if Clark was specifically interviewed about Bannon’s case or was brought in to discuss other matters DOJ is pursuing connected to Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Clark and Bannon attorney Robert Costello could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Jan. 6 select committee recently revealed that Clark interviewed with them as well, raising doubts about the Trump camp’s effort to send false slates of electors to Congress in December 2020, part of a multifaceted plan to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election.
Bannon’s attorneys indicated they were aware of Clark’s interview last week, citing it — without identifying Clark — as a reason to delay Bannon’s trial until October.
In a separate filing, DOJ also rejected additional arguments by Bannon to delay his trial, including a newly lodged argument that one of the prosecutors on the case, Molly Gaston, once worked with a top select committee staffer, Kristin Amerling, on Capitol Hill and were in a book club together.
“In his effort to create panic, the Defendant also mischaracterizes the information the Government provided relating to Kristin Amerling,” Vaughn wrote. “As the Government informed the Defendant on July 8, she and Ms. Gaston worked together over a decade ago and were in a book club that Ms. Gaston has not attended in almost two years. At no point did the Government represent that Ms. Amerling and Ms. Gaston have a close personal relationship, because they do not.”