On March 10, two whistleblowers within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a former Justice Department official, of improperly promoting a less experienced employee over more qualified candidates because that individual had proven loyal to former President Donald Trump. The whistleblowers claim Clark abused his authority by politicizing the hiring process for a career management position. Earlier this year, Clark was also allegedly involved in efforts to oust the Attorney General and overturn the presidential election.
Clark, who resigned from the DOJ at the end of the Trump administration, was the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and the Acting AAG of the Civil Division (CIV). According to the whistleblowers, whose allegations were made public in a letter, Clark improperly intervened in the CIV personnel promotion process in selecting a CIV Assistant Director. The whistleblowers claim that in choosing who to promote to Assistant Director, CIV altered long-standing personnel practices in order to allow political appointees to choose the finalists for career management positions. According to the whistleblowers, Clark only performed 15-minute interviews with the job finalists before selecting a candidate with significantly less experience and professional accolades than the other finalists. “What set the successful appointee apart from the other candidates,” claim the whistleblowers, “was that the appointee — unlike the others — had volunteered and was part of the DOJ litigation team defending a controversial Trump administration policy.”
The appointee to CIV Assistant Director previously volunteered for and worked on the DOJ litigation team for Garza v. Hargan. In that case, DOJ was arguing in defense of a Trump administration policy barring pregnant teens in immigration custody from obtaining abortions. This policy was eventually deemed unconstitutional. According to the whistleblowers, many career employees at the DOJ were not willing to work on the case.
The whistleblowers’ letter also notes that Clark made the appointment only two days before resigning from the DOJ and that the appointee was not a finalist for the job during the initial hiring process before Clark became involved.
The letter states: “Mr. Clark abused his authority by injecting himself into the career staff promotion process — contrary to established and recently-revised protocols — by acting with only days left on the job, by running a sham selection process, by choosing the least experienced finalist who had already been passed over, and by selecting the one and only candidate who volunteered to defend one of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies.”
As noted in the letter, Clark gained notoriety earlier this year for attempting to aid former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election. According to the whistleblowers, in the final days of his tenure Clark also “issued ENRD policy memoranda intended to enshrine in place Trump administration environmental policies and procedures.” The letter concludes by stating “[l]ike other instances of misconduct by departing Trump administration officials, these abuses of authority are disturbing. 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.”