On Tuesday, ABC News reported that Jeffrey Bossert Clark—the Justice Department official who spearheaded an effort to overturn the 2020 election—sought to convince the Georgia General Assembly to throw out the actual results of the race and award its electoral votes to Donald Trump instead. In a draft letter, sent last December, Clark alleged that mass voter fraud had compromised the legitimacy of Georgia’s election, in which Joe Biden narrowly prevailed. As a remedy, Clark, speaking on behalf of the Justice Department, advised the state legislature to call itself into a special session, investigate the alleged fraud, and appoint “a separate slate of electors” who would cast their votes for Trump. Clark’s superiors ultimately quashed this attempt to nullify millions of valid votes.
This scheme marked just one of Clark’s several desperate, last-minute maneuvers to overturn the election. But none of these well-documented, corrupt, anti-democratic plots seems to have hurt his career prospects. To the contrary, after leaving the Justice Department, Clark landed a position as chief of litigation and director of strategy at the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a conservative-libertarian law firm that battles “the administrative state.” (Its latest actions: supporting a law professor who refuses to get the COVID vaccine and opposing the federal eviction moratorium.) Clark’s transition back into the conservative legal movement illustrates once again that there have been virtually no professional consequences for the many Republican attorneys who tried to steal the election for Trump.
Until he launched a direct assault on American democracy, Clark’s résumé looked much like that of countless conservative lawyers. He clerked for Judge Danny Boggs, a hard-right Ronald Reagan nominee, and worked at the big law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Naturally, he joined the Federalist Society, frequently participating in the organization’s events and serving as chair of its environmental law and property rights practice group for seven years. Clark also taught at George Mason University School of Law (now Antonin Scalia Law School), a hub of conservative-libertarian legal studies lavishly funded by the Koch brothers. When he entered Trump’s Justice Department in 2018, he served as assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division; in that position, he sought to weaken federal environmental protections, freeing polluters to disregard long-standing regulations.
So far, par for the course. But Clark took a turn in the final months of the Trump administration, when he ascended to acting Assistant Attorney General of DOJ’s Civil Division. In the wake of the 2020 election, Clark latched onto the lie that mass voter fraud had tainted the results, and that Trump was the true victor. He scrambled to throw the Justice Department behind Trump’s machinations to toss out millions of votes and seize an unearned second term. Documents obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show Clark urging the Justice Department to investigate conspiracy theories about voter fraud in Georgia. (In one email, Clark noted that he was on the phone with a pro-Trump activist who claimed to have filmed proof of voter fraud in Atlanta. The alleged video evidence never materialized.) He also pressured U.S. Attorney BJay Pak to probe these nonsensical allegations, leading Pak to resign abruptly.
Moreover, Clark appears to have been involved in the campaign for the Justice Department to sue Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin. The lawsuit would’ve asked the Supreme Court to nullify the election results in each state and award their electors to Trump rather than Biden. It included claims—made infamous by Sidney Powell’s “Kraken” litigation—that Dominion Voting Systems somehow facilitated voter fraud.
When these efforts failed, Clark launched a conspiracy to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who declined to facilitate his various plots. Trump and Clark devised a plan: The president would fire Rosen and elevate Clark as acting attorney general; Clark would then inject the Justice Department into Trump’s mad dash to overturn the election. (Recently released contemporaneous notes confirm that the president considered putting Clark in charge of the entire agency.) This coup only failed when DOJ officials threatened to resign en masse upon Rosen’s termination.
Despite the extreme and dangerous nature of these antics, Clark has not been exiled from the conservative legal movement. Clark’s new employer, the NCLA, was founded in 2017 by Philip Hamburger, a legal scholar who believes that much of the administrative state—the hundreds of agencies that enforce federal regulations—is unlawful. It is largely funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation and routinely sues the government. In recent months, the NCLA has fought to overturn the federal ban on bump stocks, shield the Federalist from an unfair labor practice after its publisher threatened any employee who tried to unionize, and topple the federal government’s COVID eviction moratorium. On Tuesday, the organization filed suit on behalf an Antonin Scalia Law School professor who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID, arguing that the school’s vaccine mandate is illegal.
The NCLA is not a fringe firm. Its Board of Advisors includes retired conservative judge Janice Rogers Brown, prominent libertarian law professors Randy Barnett and Eugene Volokh, Supreme Court litigators Mike Carvin and Chuck Cooper, former Trump lawyer William Consovoy, and Clark’s former DOJ colleague Jennifer Mascott, who served as Associate Deputy Attorney General under Trump. The NCLA did not return my repeated requests for comment for this article.
Like other right-wing legal groups—including Clark’s own Federalist Society—the NLCA appears to have decided that abetting a failed coup does not render an attorney unfit for employment. The conservative legal movement has welcomed Trump’s schemers back into the fold with open arms. They will, it seems, experience no ramifications for their plots to steal the race. Exploiting the legal system to nullify millions of legal votes is not a deal-breaker for these attorneys; it might even be a job qualification. After all, the many Republican attorneys general who tried to overturn the 2020 election—most of them affiliated with the Federalist Society—faced no consequences for their actions; most of them are already back at the Supreme Court asking the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The insurrectionists, the coup abettors, the lawless partisans demanding mass disenfranchisement: With very few exceptions, they have returned to their plum pre-election posts, or secured even more influential or lucrative new sinecures. Trump is gone, but his most corrupt allies are only amassing more power in his absence.