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The DOJ is asking a judge to compel Trump White House lawyers to testify in the Jan. 6 investigation

The DOJ is asking a judge to compel Trump White House lawyers to testify in the Jan. 6 investigation



CNN

The Justice Department is asking a federal judge to compel two of its top lawyers Donald Trump’A White House adviser is testifying about conversations with the former president as he tries to breach the privileged firewall Trump has used to avoid scrutiny of his actions. January 6, 2021according to three people familiar with the investigation.

Last week’s effort to compel additional testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin is part of secret lawsuits. Trump has been fighting to keep former advisers from testifying about certain stories before criminal grand juries, citing executive and attorney-client privilege to keep information confidential or slow down the work of criminal investigators.

But the Justice Department has successfully obtained responses from Greg Jacobs and Mark Short, the president’s top vice advisers, over the past three weeks, important court victories that could increase the chances of a criminal investigation reaching Trump’s inner circle.

Jacobs’ Oct. 6 testimony, previously unreported, is the first time Trump has been exposed in a criminal investigation after a court battle that has seen the secrecy he has tried to maintain around the West Wing since the 2020 election. A week after Jacob’s retrial with the grand jury, Short had his own grand jury date, CNN reported.

All four people previously refused to answer some questions They have talked about tips and interactions with Trump when they testified in a secret criminal investigation in recent months. Trump lost his legal battle against Jacob and Short last month before the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Attorneys for the men the DOJ is trying to compel declined to comment for this story or did not respond to requests for comment. Cipollone and Philbin did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Justice Department also declined to comment.

The sources said all four men were willing to cooperate as required by law, leaving Trump’s team to fight over some of the details in the investigation.

The trial surrounding Cipollone and Philbin’s testimony could be important to investigators in the long run, given how close the pair were to Trump before and during the Capitol riots. Prosecutors may aim for a grand jury to hear about their direct conversations with the then-president.

The disputes — because they involve grand jury service — could spark several more court battles that will be important to prosecutors working to bring criminal charges related to Trump’s post-election efforts.

Witnesses subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, such as former White House officials Mark Meadows, Eric Hershman, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller and campaign adviser Boris Epstein, may also decline to describe their conversations with Trump or the advice they gave him after the election. Multiple sources familiar with the investigation say.

Trump and his allies have invoked confidentiality claims — executive privilege and attorney-client privilege — with results that have become embroiled in many of the legal quagmires surrounding the former president. These include the January 6 federal criminal investigation, Mar-a-Lago federal criminal investigation documents. Investigation in Fulton County, Georgia on election interference and was also investigated by the House Select Committee on January 6. Some of the privilege arguments raised by Trump have never been decided in federal court, and some of the fights may end up in the Supreme Court.

In a statement, Trump’s press secretary, Taylor Budovitch, criticized the “weaponized” Justice Department and called the investigations into the former president a “witch hunt.”

According to the sources, the Justice Department won a ruling from a trial judge in late September that Jacob and Short must answer some of the questions Trump’s team sought to invoke presidential and attorney-client privilege.

The sealed lawsuit stemming from the grand jury’s proceedings was before Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the D.C. Circuit Court. The source said Howell refused to put Jacob and Short’s testimony on hold while Trump’s team filed an appeal.

And it took days for the Trump team to respond to Howell’s loss in court. The Justice Department quickly set a arraignment date for Jacobs, leaving him for an Oct. 6 grand jury arraignment, multiple sources said.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is still considering legal arguments from Trump’s defense attorneys and the Justice Department regarding his ability to file executive and attorney-client privilege claims.

Mark Short, left, and Greg Jacob

How it’s resolved — by the appeals court or even the Supreme Court, if Trump takes it that far — could have important implications for the Jan. 6 criminal investigation and for several witnesses who may be reluctant to share what they know. Trump’s statement of privilege.

Among a large group of former Trump officials, Jacobs has been one of the sharpest voices condemning the then-president’s post-election actions, particularly the pressure he and his campaign attorney, John Eastman, tried to exert on the then-vice president. Mike Pence blocked congressional certification of the presidential vote.

Jacob was a harsh critic of Eastman prosecutors are also interestedEastman tried to convince Pence’s office that only the vice president could overrule the vote. He told IsthmaAt the time, the right-wing attorney was a “snake in the ear” of the president, and when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, “We’re under siege now because of your bullshit. »

Jacobs joined a procession of star-studded witnesses at public House Select Committee hearings this summer, speaking openly about his disgust at what he witnessed inside the White House complex from his senior administration.

“There is almost no idea more un-American than the idea that anyone elects the president of America, and then, in 230 years of unbroken historical practice, the vice president has no such authority,” Jacobs said in July.

But Jacobs and Short won’t reveal what they know about Trump’s stories to the House or a grand jury until this month.

In a House Select Committee memo, Cipollo answered multiple questions about what happened inside the West Wing on Jan. 6, but declined to describe the relationship between him and Trump.

Cipollone and Philbin’s roles as White House lawyers raise complex legal questions about whether they can claim confidentiality over legal advice Trump has given them, and whether the former president has executive privilege to stop criminal investigators.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly refused to certify executive privilege for the January 6 information, leaving the fight for Trump to work against the Justice Department.

While the courts will consider each case individually, history is not on Trump’s side. Federal prosecutors investigating former presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon were able to defeat attorney-client claims of the White House counsel privilege, as well as claims of executive privilege so that the grand jury could hear carefully guarded information.

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