Whistleblowers say Trump ally made questionable hire days before resigning from Justice Department
This article features our Senior Counsel David Seide and was originally published here.
Two federal employees are calling for an investigation into the hiring of a senior Justice Department official who had been interviewed by a manager who resigned shortly after — and just days before President Joe Biden‘s inauguration.
The anonymous whistleblowers accuse Jeffrey Bossert Clark of conducting a bogus interview process for the assistant director of the Civil Division and appointing an inexperienced attorney days before his own departure. Clark had resigned on January 14 from his Trump-appointed position as the assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Division.
According to the five-page letter, the employees claim Clark appointed an attorney who “volunteered and was part of the DOJ litigation team defending a controversial Trump administration policy … that barred pregnant, unaccompanied minors in federal immigration custody from obtaining abortions.” The policy was later declared unconstitutional.
Clark defended the appointment in an email to CNN on Wednesday.
“Civil Division managers sent me three candidates to interview, each of whom they rated well-qualified. I interviewed all three using the same process I had used for other positions. I think it’s very unfortunate that the disappointed applicants would attack their own colleague’s selection,” he said. “That candidate had strong leadership qualities and was the best qualified. Pointing to that lawyer’s work on the Garza litigation, with a D.C. Circuit decision that came out years before I joined the Civil Division, is just a baseless attempt to cast aspersions.”
The whistleblowers, though, called Clark’s involvement in the hiring process was “unusual.”
“More notably, his interviews of the two unsuccessful finalists were perfunctory. Each was interviewed for a grand total of 15 minutes — Mr. Clark used a timer and was not particularly engaged,” wrote David Seide, a senior counsel at the Government Accountability Project, who represents the whistleblowers.
Seide told CNN on Wednesday that the call for the House and Senate to investigate isn’t about the employee Clark hired. “It has more to do with an abuse of the process by Clark,” he said.
The employee was not named in the letter.
Seide urged lawmakers to “take prompt action” by holding a hearing and called for the Justice Department to reopen the position and restart the interviewing process.
Dena Iverson, the principal deputy director for the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, declined to comment to CNN. Stephanie Logan, a spokeswoman for DOJ’s Office of Inspector General, also declined to comment.
Days after Clark’s resignation, The New York Times reported that he had discussed with former President Donald Trump removing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, replacing him and using his powers to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden win.
“Like other instances of misconduct by departing Trump administration officials, these abuses of authority are disturbing,” Seide wrote in the letter. “Mr. Clark’s last-minute politicization of the DOJ hiring process and issuance of policy memoranda — capped by his willingness to participate in what was close to an attempted coup d’état — demands immediate, close and transparent oversight and investigations.”