Trump Officials Can Testify in Jan. 6 Inquiries: Justice Dept.
The Justice Department this week informed former officials they may testify before various commissions investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to corrupt the presidential election results and the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill. , according to a letter obtained by the New York Times.
Witnesses can give “unrestricted testimony” to the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said. Both panels examine the offer by Trump’s White House officials to force the Justice Department to undermine President Biden’s victory, as well as the events leading up to the Capitol riot, as Congress convened to officially count the election results.
Officials learned in May that they could provide information on how the ministry planned and responded to the certification of the vote on Jan.6, according to the letter.
The decision goes against the views of former President Donald J. Trump, who argued that his decisions and deliberations are protected by executive privilege. It also sets up a potential legal battle if Mr. Trump sues to block any testimony, which would force the courts to determine how much a former president can be protected by privilege.
Supporters of Mr. Trump have argued that a president cannot function if the privilege can be withdrawn by a successor, exposing sensitive decision-making and opening the previous administration to scrutiny. But others say the matter is established law and the privilege does not apply in extraordinary circumstances.
In his last few weeks in office, Mr. Trump pressured Justice Department officials to overturn the election results, asking them to examine allegations of vote tampering that investigators said they had. already found to be false.
“Lawyers for the department, including those who have left the department, are obligated to protect non-public information they learned in the course of their work,” the department said in its letter, which was signed by Bradley Weinsheimer. , a senior career deputy prosecutor. general’s office.
“The extraordinary events in this matter constitute exceptional circumstances justifying an accommodation for Congress,” he wrote, noting that the information sought by Congress was directly related to whether Mr. Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to advance “personal policy”. interests.”
The ministry told former officials they could provide unrestricted testimony “as long as the testimony is limited to the scope of interviews defined by the committees” and does not reveal grand jury information, classified information. or pending criminal cases.
The Senate Judiciary and House Oversight and Reform Committees have asked a few Trump-era Justice Department officials to disclose the pressures they faced to undermine confidence in the election outcome or seek to overturn it in court, as well as the ministry’s response to the Jan.6 attack.
These negotiations were effectively stalled as the Justice Department decided how many former officials were allowed to disclose. Many of their conversations and actions were potentially covered by privileges that the department has long protected in order to retain them. the deliberations of the executive are confidential.
The Justice Department has decided to let former officials testify after consulting with the White House council office, given that such permission could force current and future administrations to publicly reveal deliberative information, according to its letter. .
In an unusual move, the White House board office said it would not be appropriate to invoke executive privilege because of the topics the committees wanted to explore, the department told former officials.
While lawyers for Mr. Trump have invoked executive privilege to prevent officials from testifying, the White House office of the council noted that precedent indicated that such privilege was supposed to be of benefit to the country, rather than for the president as an individual.
The Justice Department said in its letter that the decision was “unique given the facts and circumstances of this particular case.”
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said she was satisfied with the Justice Department’s decision and expected “swift cooperation from these witnesses.”
“I pledge to shed light on the attempts of the previous administration to overthrow the justice ministry and to annul free and fair elections,” she said in a statement.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who heads the Judiciary Committee, said on twitter that he was working to schedule interviews with officials.
The Justice Department is still sending the committee documents related to its investigation, according to a committee aide. Documents sent to congressional panels this summer revealed that Mr. Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, were pressuring Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen to investigate allegations of electoral fraud that he the investigators had found unfounded.
In January, Mr. Durbin opened an investigation into the involvement of Justice Department officials in efforts to reverse Mr. Trump’s electoral defeat. This spring, he asked the National Archives for communications and documents relating to meetings between the White House and the Justice Department regarding those efforts..
Along with Congressional investigations, the Justice Department’s Inspector General is examining how Mr. Trump and the White House pressured former department officials during their final days in office. Mr Trump has argued that executive privilege prevents former officials from cooperating with the Inspector General, but those officials are likely to take the Justice Department’s contrary view into account when deciding whether to provide information.
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