WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it conducts behind closed doors, including some with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to those with knowledge of the situation. .
The move is further proof of the broad nature of the department’s criminal investigation into the events leading up to the Capitol attack and the role Mr Trump and his allies played in trying to keep him in office after his defeat in the 2020 elections.
The House committee, which has no jurisdiction to prosecute, has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used by the Justice Department as evidence in possible criminal cases, to seek new clues or as a basis for new interviews conducted by federal law enforcement officers.
Assistants to Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and the committee chair, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be transferred, according to a person with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the confidential. character of the investigations.
On April 20, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, and Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote to Timothy J. Heaphy, the principal investigator for the House panel, advising him that some committee interviews “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.”
Mr Polite and Mr Graves did not specify how many transcripts they requested or whether there were any interviews of particular interest. In their letter, they made a broad request, asking that the panel “provide us with transcripts of these interviews, and of any additional interviews you may conduct in the future.”
A person familiar with the case said the transcripts were part of a negotiation between the commission and the Justice Department, in which the panel hoped prosecutors would hand over evidence in exchange for the transcripts.
“The interviews held by the committee are the property of the committee,” said Maryland Democrat Representative Jamie Raskin and panel member. “I imagine the committee would like to see any relevant evidence used with any relevant legal context.”
When asked about the Justice Department’s request after this article was published, Mr. Thompson made a distinction between handing over the commission’s material and showing certain documents. He suggested that the panel had invested a lot of time and effort in conducting so many interviews and was hesitant to just hand them over.
“We can’t give them full access to our product,” he told reporters. “That would be premature at this point, because we haven’t finished our own work yet.”
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The department’s investigation has followed a different track than the committee’s work. In general, investigators working on the two investigations did not share any information, other than sometimes communicating with each other to ensure a witness wouldn’t appear before several investigators at the same time, according to a person with knowledge of the investigations.
So far, the Justice Department has prosecuted more than 800 people on charges of storming the Capitol. But in recent months, the department has taken steps to significantly broaden its focus to look at planning for the January 6 rally that preceded the riots, while also signaling that the investigation would include wider efforts to reverse the election. to make. And in recent weeks, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has strengthened the core team charged with handling the most sensitive and politically combustible elements of the investigation.
Several months ago, the department quietly dispatched an experienced federal prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to department headquarters. He is overseeing the politically charged question of whether to file a case in connection with other attempts to reverse the election, beyond the storming of the Capitol. That task could bring the investigation closer to Mr Trump and his inner circle.
A DailyExpertNews-reviewed subpoena indicates the Justice Department is investigating the actions of rally planners.
Prosecutors have begun seeking data on people who hosted or spoke to various pro-Trump rallies after the 2020 election, as well as anyone who provided security at those events, and on those deemed “VIP participants.”
They are also seeking information on members of the executive and legislature who may have participated in planning or conducting the rallies, or attempted to impede, influence, hinder or delay the certification of the election, as the subpoena put it. .
The Justice Department’s request for transcripts underscores how much ground the House committee has covered, and the unusual nature of a situation where a well-staffed congressional investigation has obtained testimony from key witnesses before a grand jury investigation.
The commission has indicated that it is considering criminally referring Trump and some of his associates to the Justice Department, a move that could increase pressure on Garland to pursue a case.
In a ruling in a civil suit brought by the commission, a federal judge ruled in March that Mr. Trump and John Eastman, an attorney who had advised him on how to reverse the election, had most likely committed crimes, including obstructing the work of Congress and conspiring to defraud the United States.
The House committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, is headed by Mr. Thompson and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, one of only two House Republicans to embrace an investigation into their own party’s actions. The panel has about 45 employees, including more than a dozen former federal prosecutors and two former US attorneys, and spends more than $1.6 million per quarter on its work.
The commission has obtained documents and testimony from a wide variety of witnesses, including more than a dozen Trump White House officials, rally planners and some rioters themselves.
Those witnesses included White House attorneys; Ministry of Justice officials; security officers; members of the National Guard; associates close to former Vice President Mike Pence; members of Mr. Trump’s personal legal team; Republicans who participated in a plan to advance pro-Trump voters from states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Mr Trump’s own relatives; and the leaders of right-wing militia groups.
At least 16 Trump allies have indicated that they are not fully cooperating with the commission. Faced with such resistance, panel investigators took a page out of the organized crime prosecution and quietly testified at least six lower-ranking Trump administration officials who provided information about their bosses’ activities.
Some of those witnesses — including an aide to Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff — have provided critical information.
The committee has also attempted to obtain testimony from Republican members of Congress and subpoenaed five lawmakers last week. Those members have criticized the panel’s work but declined to say whether they would participate in the interviews, which are scheduled for the end of May. One of the lawmakers, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, said he received his subpoena Monday and was reviewing it.
Mr. Garland and his key associates have been careful not to disclose their research methods, and they have tried to emphasize their impartiality in limited public comments about the research.
“We are investigating behavior and crimes, not people or points of view,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said during an interview at the University of Chicago last week.
“We are following the evidence,” she added. “It’s very important to do that methodically.”