Justice Department prosecutors are preparing to fight in court to force former White House officials to testify about then-President Donald Trump’s conversations and actions around January 6, according to people briefed on the matter.
At issue are claims of executive privilege that prosecutors expect the former president to make in order to shield some information from the federal grand jury as the criminal investigation moves deeper into the ranks of White House officials who directly interacted with Trump.
DOJ’s preemptive move is the clearest sign yet that federal investigators are homing in on Trump’s conduct as he tried to prevent the transfer of power to Joe Biden.
An executive privilege court fight would immediately put the Justice Department’s investigation into a more aggressive stance than even the Mueller investigation — a major years-long criminal probe into Trump while he was President. He was not ultimately charged.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has made clear in public remarks that Trump is not beyond the reach of the investigation because of his status as a former president. He has also stressed they are taking care to “get this right.”
Confronting the privilege issue reflects the care with which the Justice Department is taking as it faces the unusual situation of investigating of a former president for actions taken while in office. And it could bring about one of the first major court fights over the separation of powers in the January 6 criminal investigation.