DOJ Fight With Jan. 6 Committee Bursts Into The Open
Matt Shuham and John Light –
The Justice Department on Wednesday requested transcripts of all of the congressional Jan. 6 committee’s depositions, writing in a seemingly frustrated tone that the committee’s “failure” to grant access to the transcripts was complicating the department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct related to the insurrection.
House January 6th Select Committee Holds Its Second Hearing
“The Select Committee’s failure to grant the Department access to these transcripts complicates the Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” the letter stated, after noting that the DOJ couldn’t “compel” Congress to provide the transcripts on its own.
The letter became public through the ongoing criminal case against several members of the Proud Boys. Prosecutors attached it to a court filing consenting to the defendants’ request to push the trial date from August until December due to the potential impact of the transcripts. The filing noted that the letter was sent to the committee on Wednesday.
“It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced,” read the letter, which was signed by the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Matthew Graves, and two assistant attorneys general: Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the DOJ’s criminal division, and Matt Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security.
“Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews.”
Wednesday’s letter argued that federal prosecutors needed to be able to compare the deposition material to other material from witnesses “who have provided statements to multiple government entities” in order to assess the strength of that testimony in any potential criminal prosecutions, and to ensure that investigators consider all relevant evidence.
“We cannot be sure that all relevant evidence has been considered without access to the transcripts that are uniquely within the Select Committee’s possession,” the DOJ officials wrote.
The signatories noted that they were writing “in furtherance of our letter on April 20, 2022.” The existence of that earlier letter seeking transcripts had been reported in May by the New York Times.
‘“Accordingly, we renew our request that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all interviews it has conducted to date.”
At the time of the Times’ May report, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) indicated that he was aware of the request, but did not anticipate sharing the panel’s “work product” before its work was complete.
“We’re in the midst of our work,” Thompson told reporters. “If they want to come and talk, just like we’ve had other agencies to come and talk, we’d be happy to talk to them, but we can’t give them access to our work product at this point.”
“They wanted access to depositions,” he said in May. “But my understanding is they didn’t tell us specifically what transcripts or anything like that. And obviously, we spent quite a bit of time and effort to get where we are. And we’re still in the midst of our own investigation.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Proud Boys’ case discussed in a hearing last week the timeline under which the committee was likely to make its materials public. At the time, one prosecutor said the feds expected it might not be until September, when they also expected the committee to release a public report.
The filing in the Proud Boys’ criminal case emphasized why the transcripts would be relevant to ongoing cases. It noted to the court: “While we do not know precisely when copies of the transcripts will be released, if they are released as currently anticipated in early September 2022, the parties to this trial will face unique prejudice because the jury for the August 8 trial will have already been sworn and jeopardy will have already attached.”
News of the request broke during a hearing of the committee, and around the same time that The New York Times reported that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. had issued subpoenaed to Jan. 6-era Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro.