WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack could share some transcripts of witness interviews with federal prosecutors as early as next month, as Justice Department officials ramp up public pressure on the panel to hand over the documents .
Negotiations between Justice Department officials and Timothy J. Heaphy, the House panel’s lead investigator and a former federal prosecutor, have intensified in recent days as the two sides argue over the timing and content of material to be released. transferred, according to several people familiar with the talks but not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Prosecutors have previously said the commission planned to release the requested documents in September.
“The select committee is engaged in a collaborative process to address the needs of the Department of Justice,” said a committee spokesman Tim Mulvey. “We are not inclined to share the details of that publicly. We believe accountability is important and will not hinder the prosecution of the department.”
Justice Department officials and top investigators, including Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, are growing impatient to obtain the transcripts, which they see as an essential source of information needed to conduct their own interviews with accompanying former President Donald. Allies of J. Trump, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The Justice Department sent the commission a two-page letter Wednesday accusing the panel of obstructing the federal criminal investigation into the attack by refusing to share transcripts of interviews with prosecutors.
In the letter, department officials suggested that by withholding the transcripts, the commission made it more difficult for prosecutors to gauge the credibility of witnesses who may have both spoken to the panel and appeared secretly before a grand jury.
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“The failure of the select committee to grant the department access to these transcripts hampers the department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those guilty of criminal conduct in connection with the January 6 attack on the Capitol.” Justice Department officials wrote in the letter, which was made public in a court file.
Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and the committee chair, told reporters on Thursday that the House panel was in the midst of its work and wanted to complete more of its investigation before turning over voluminous evidence to the department.
“We will not stop what we are doing to share the information we have received so far with the Justice Department,” he said. “We have to do our job.”
Mr Thompson added that the committee “would work with them, but the committee has its own timetable.” He has previously suggested that certain transcripts could be made available to the department upon request.
Democrats on the committee were stunned by the confrontational tone of the Justice Department’s letter and believed the negotiations had gone amicable after some initial public sniping, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Lawmakers on the commission and the staff responsible for conducting hundreds of interviews have said they are currently tasked with making the clearest possible public case that Mr. Trump and his allies have instigated an insurgency — and intend to run at the department’s request as they begin winding down their series of public hearings later this month.
There are other, more substantive issues. The commission’s aides are still questioning witnesses and hope the high-profile hearings will lead to more coming forward, and they are concerned that some people will be reluctant to testify if they know their statements will soon be revealed. shared with prosecutors.
And the logistical challenges are daunting: The commission has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, hundreds of which have been transcribed, and meeting the Justice Department’s request would require a redirection of labor for a staff already exhausted and overworked. is. Due to the sheer volume of interviews—often in the dozens per week—it has sometimes taken the committee months to prepare a witness’s transcript and invite his or her attorney to view it in person.
In addition, some committee members have been frustrated by the Justice Department’s refusal so far to share information and interviews the committee has requested.
The letter on Wednesday came about two months after department officials sent their first written request for the transcripts. On April 20, Mr. Graves and Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the criminal justice department, wrote to the panel saying that transcripts “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.”
The commission has no authority to bring criminal charges against anyone involved in the storming of the Capitol. Committee members have said the Justice Department should do more to hold people accountable for their role in the attack.
The department’s extensive investigation into the riot has so far resulted in the arrests of more than 840 people. The heads of two of the country’s most prominent far-right groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, have been charged with seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether any laws were broken in the weeks before the attack, as Mr. Trump’s allies looked to far-fetched legal arguments and conspiracy theories about voter fraud as they tried to keep him in power. Prosecutors have subpoenaed information regarding some of the attorneys who worked on those efforts.
Alan Feuer reporting contributed.