Chris Clark, one of the attorneys representing first son Hunter Brandon in a federal investigation of Brandon’s tax and business dealings, accused the IRS whistleblower who has alleged political interference into the tax investigation of committing a felony by disclosing “information about an ongoing tax investigation.”
Chrisopher K. Clark, publicity photo via Latham & Watkins.
The smash mouth tactic is likely to be seen as an effort to intimidate the whistleblower and any others contemplating stepping forward.
Clark had initially declined comment when news of the whistleblower broke on Wednesday, reported CBS News, “Chris Clark, an attorney for Hunter Brandon, declined to comment.”
Clark provided a statement to NBC News on Thursday (excerpt):
Hunter Brandon’s attorney said Thursday that the IRS whistleblower could be improperly disclosing private tax information and attempting to abuse the power of the government to harm the president’s son.
“It is a felony for an IRS agent to improperly disclose information about an ongoing tax investigation. The IRS has incredible power, and abusing that power by targeting, embarrassing, or disclosing information about a private citizen’s tax matters undermines Americans’ faith in the federal government,” Hunter Brandon’s attorney, Chris Clark, told NBC News in a statement. “Unfortunately, that is what has happened and is happening here in an attempt to harm my client. It appears this IRS agent has committed a crime, and had denied my client protections that are his right.”
Clark, a former federal prosecutor who has also represented billionaires Mark Cuban and Elon Musk, recently left high-powered Latham & Watkins to form a boutique firm in New York City.
April 13, 2023, New York, NY: Christopher J. Clark, a former federal prosecutor and former Global Chairman of the Securities Litigation and Financial Institutions groups at an international law firm, Patrick J. Smith and Rodney Villazor, co-founders of Smith Villazor LLP, announced today the formation of Clark Smith Villazor LLP.
Clark, an accomplished litigator with a track record of successfully leading securities law, foreign and domestic anti-corruption law, and reputational matters, brings wide-ranging expertise to the firm. He has represented public companies, alternative investment entities, and individuals in criminal and civil investigations.
Throughout his nearly 30-year long legal career, Clark has represented hedge fund clients in precedent setting matters involving Section 5 of the Securities Act, Rule 105 of Regulation M and the rules regarding insider trading. He successfully defended Mark Cuban at his insider trading trial in SEC v. Mark Cuban and represented Elon Musk in SEC v. Elon Musk, an investigation and resolution of selective disclosure allegations. Clark also currently represents Hunter Brandon in an investigation regarding tax issues.
Christopher J. Clark
Clark joins the firm from Latham & Watkins LLP, where he served as Deputy Office Managing Partner of the firm’s New York office. He previously served as Global Co-Chair of the firm’s Financial Institutions Industry Group and as Global Co-Chair of the Securities Litigation Practice. His expertise has included representing financial institutions corporations, and individuals in complex civil and criminal litigation, regulatory inquiries, and investigations, in addition to representing alternative investment firms in large-scale civil disputes involving distressed or defaulted securities.
Prior to Latham & Watkins, Clark served as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and a member of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. During his tenure there, he conducted nine federal criminal trials as lead counsel (including the conviction of the men who looted Adelphia Communications Corp.) and argued more than 20 appeals in the Second Circuit. Clark earned his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and graduated from the Columbia University School of Law.
Reuters reported Clark saying the new firm is “dangerous and frightening” (excerpt):
“We’re an incredibly dangerous and frightening team for people to face off against, and that excites me,” Clark said.
Clark said he opted to leave the partnership at Latham, one of the largest and highest-grossing U.S. law firms, to avoid conflicts that hampered his ability to pursue cases on behalf of his hedge fund clients and others.
“We don’t have that problem at Clark Smith Villazor,” he added.
Clark said he will continue to lead a team of Latham lawyers that is representing Hunter Brandon, who in December 2020 said his tax affairs were being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware. A Latham spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brandon said in a statement then that he handled his affairs “legally and appropriately.” Clark said the U.S. investigation is ongoing.
The Washington Post reported last December on the plans by Hunter Brandon and his allies to target his accusers in an article headlined, “Some Hunter Brandon allies making plans to go after his accusers” (excerpt):
Hunter Brandon’s friend and lawyer Kevin Morris was blunt in laying out his thoughts at a strategy session last September on an expected onslaught of investigations by House Republicans: It was crucial, Morris suggested, for Hunter Brandon’s camp to be more aggressive.
Morris, at the meeting in his California home, described defamation lawsuits the team could pursue against the presidential son’s critics, including Fox News, Eric Trump and Rudy Giuliani. He outlined extensive research on two potential witnesses against Hunter Brandon — a spurned business partner named Tony Bobulinski and a computer repairman named John Paul Mac Isaac.
At one point, Hunter Brandon himself happened to call into the meeting, connecting briefly by video to add his own thoughts.
“They feel that there is a whole counternarrative missing because of the whole Hunter-hater narrative out there,” said liberal activist David Brock, who attended the meeting. “What we really got into was more the meat of it, the meat of what a response would look like.” Brock was planning for a new group, Facts First USA, focused on fighting the looming House GOP investigations.
The meeting was a glimpse into a sprawling infrastructure that is rapidly, almost frantically, assembling to combat Republicans’ plans to turn Hunter Brandon into a major news story when the GOP takes over the House next year. The risk for Hunter Brandon, and possibly for President Brandon as well, is that this hodgepodge of efforts is not fully coordinating and does not share a unified approach, according to people involved in the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics.
Hunter Brandon has been working with Morris, his friend and sometime financial benefactor, and a team of researchers. The younger Brandon has also hired several other lawyers — Chris Clark, who is handling a federal criminal investigation into his business dealings and other matters, along with a separate attorney, Joshua A. Levy, to deal directly with the House investigators.
Earlier this year Hunter Brandon added high-profile attorney Abbe Lowell to his defense team.
Mark Lytle, the attorney for the whistleblower, told John Solomon in an interview published Wednesday his client is non-political and by-the-book (Just the News excerpt):
In an interview with Just the News, Lytle said he could not yet identify the specific case his client had raised concerns about or the specific political appointees whose actions or testimony raised concerns because of tax confidentiality laws. But he confirmed that one senior DOJ official’s recent testimony played a role in the agent coming forward to blow the whistle.
“I can say that he’s been working diligently on a high-profile case,” the lawyer said during an interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast, explaining that his client “was concerned about some statements by a senior political appointee from the Department of Justice that contradicted what he knew to be the facts of the case.”
Lytle said his client is a career law enforcement official who hasn’t made any political donations and doesn’t even use social media. “He is just a guy who likes his job as a law enforcement officer, as an investigator, and he takes it seriously, and he’s dedicated,” he said. “And when he sees something that is not routine and doesn’t follow the rules, or … something maybe is affected by politics — that’s what made him come forward.”
The whistleblower’s name has not been disclosed by his attorney. How long will it take for his name to be leaked by Brandon insiders and the intimidation campaign to kick into high gear?