Environmental lawyers are defending their honor after an ex-Trump administration official was mocked on Capitol Hill for his role in challenging Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
The legal specialty was thrust into the center of the ongoing congressional hearings over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday when lawmakers’ focus turned to Jeffrey Bossert Clark, who led the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division during the Trump administration.
Clark was mocked by his former Trump administration colleagues, who said he was jockeying to become acting attorney general so he could bolster former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud when his only background was as an environmental attorney.
Legal Twitter blew up.
“For the record, there’s nothing wrong with being an ‘environmental lawyer,’” wrote law professor Jonathan Adler. “Some of the best lawyers I know are environmental lawyers. Indeed, the successful practice of environmental law often requires the mastery of a wide range of subject matters and skills.”
Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe wrote: “Why do they keep calling Jeffrey Clark an ‘environmental lawyer’? He’s an ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL lawyer, a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry whom Trump stashed in DOJ. Let’s keep that straight. Don’t give environmental lawyers a bad name, please!”
Before his work at DOJ defending Trump’s environmental policies, many of which rolled back rules put in place by the Obama administration, Clark was known for representing BP PLC in its litigation over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and the spill of more than 200 million gallons of oil that followed (Greenwire, Jan. 26, 2021).
Clark now faces allegations that he pressured his former DOJ colleagues to back Trump’s claims of election fraud surrounding the 2020 presidential contest.
Federal officials searched Clark’s home in Virginia earlier this week (E&E News PM, June 23).
Former Trump administration officials recounted to the House special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack that Clark had attempted to get DOJ leaders to sign off on a letter to Georgia officials falsely stating that the department had “taken notice” of election irregularities.
After officials declined, Clark told them that Trump planned to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and install Clark as acting attorney general, according to testimony to the committee (E&E Daily, June 24).
Ex-Trump officials yesterday excoriated Clark’s behavior.
“I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general. He’s never been a criminal attorney; he’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life,” Trump’s acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told the panel.
According to Donoghue, Clark told him at the time, “Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals, civil litigation and environmental litigation, and things like that. And I said, that’s right — you’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”
Reporter Lesley Clark contributed.