The chairman of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked panel to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion said that any defendants using their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination will be taken as an admission of guilt.
Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who was chosen by Pelosi as chairman committee, offered his interpretation of the Bill of Rights to MSNBC’s Rachell Maddow.
Thompson’s lecture on the Constitution last week was prompted by word from Jeffrey Clark, who was formerly with the Department of Justice in the Trump administration, that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment when he appears before the Democrat-dominated committee.
“We will give Mr. Clark his right to assert his Fifth Amendment before the committee if he chooses,” Thompson said Wednesday, according to Real Clear Politics. “We’re doing everything we can to show we’re not partisan.”
The King of the January 6 Clown Committee, @BennieGThompson, said that if you choose to plead the 5th, you’re guilty.
That’s not what the law says, Bennie.
He needs to read the constitution.
— Alex Bruesewitz (@alexbruesewitz) December 2, 2021
“But you know, if you say you haven’t done anything wrong, but on the other hand, you want to assert the Fifth Amendment in terms of self-prosecution, it says that you have something to hide. So we’re going to give him an opportunity to do it,” he said.
Thompson said the panel wants Clark to answer its questions, regardless of what he might think are his rights.
“He can do it and it will be under oath and he is still subject to certain penalties should he decide to not tell us anything,” he said.
Thompson then said that invoking the Fifth is tantamount to a guilty plea to something.
“But if he is saying, ‘I’ll come but I’ll plead the Fifth,’ in some instances, that says you are part and parcel guilty to what occurred,” he said.
Stanley Brand, a former House lawyer now representing former Trump administration aide Dan Scavino, said anyone called to testify would be prudent to at least consider invoking the Fifth Amendment, according to The Washington Post.
“You have a Justice Department inquiry with 650 defendants, a grand jury and a warehouse full of evidence,” he said. “You’re at risk if you’re talking under oath, no matter who you are.”
The Jan 6 committee just voted to recommend the House hold Jeffrey Clark in contempt.
Clark has direct knowledge of Trump’s efforts to utilize the DOJ to prevent a peaceful transfer of power.
By refusing to appear, he's violating the law. He will be held accountable.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 2, 2021
Clark had been scheduled to appear Saturday, however, on Friday the panel announced that had been postponed.
“Through his attorney, Mr. Clark has informed the Select Committee of a medical condition that precludes his participation in tomorrow’s meeting and he has provided ample evidence of his claim. Chairman Thompson has agreed to postpone the deposition until December 16th. Chairman Thompson wishes Mr. Clark well,” select committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said in a statement, according to CNN.
Earlier this month, Steve Bannon, an adviser to former President Donald Trump, was indicted on a charge of contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before the panel.