Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official under then-President Donald Trump, suggested using military power to keep Trump in power despite his loss in the 2020 election.
Trump’s third indictment on Tuesday cites a January 3, 2021, exchange between Clark, who is referred to as “Co-Conspirator 4,” and White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin. A month earlier, Philbin had warned Trump that “there is no world, there is no option in which you do not leave the White House on January 20th.”
Philbin also warned Clark that there was no fraud in the 2020 election, and if Trump tried to remain in office anyway, there would be “riots in every major city in the United States.”
To that, Clark simply responded: “Well … that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”
The Insurrection Act, which has been used only a handful of times in the last century, authorizes the U.S. president to deploy the military domestically to quell a rebellion or uprising.
The law has been criticized as being “dangerously vague” and “ripe for abuse.” (You may recall a New York Times op-ed in 2020 from Senator Tom Cotton, encouraging Trump to use the Insurrection Act to stop the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the country.) Because of the way the law is written, Americans basically have to trust that the president will not abuse the powers of the Insurrection Act.
As we can see in Trump’s third indictment, he could not be trusted in that regard. His advisers were planning to stage a coup, and also preparing to use the military to quash protests if that coup failed.