A federal judge has slapped down a motion filed by Joe Biden’s Justice Department in a case involving a pair of lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
The DOJ was attempting to prevent former President Donald Trump from providing depositions in the lawsuits “to determine whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to fire Strzok or urged any White House aides to do so,” NBC News reported Thursday.
The report continued: “The judge’s order was in response to the Justice Department asking her to reconsider an earlier ruling that said Strzok’s attorneys could move forward with a deposition of Trump in lawsuits against the Justice Department and FBI filed by Strzok and Page in 2019. The Justice Department had argued Wednesday that ‘newly available evidence’ stemming from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony last week, as well as sworn testimony from other high-level government officials with ‘direct knowledge’ of Trump’s communications regarding Strzok and Page, was grounds for reconsidering a deposition involving the former president.”
The availability of that evidence to Mr. Strzok means the deposition of former President Trump is not appropriate,” wrote Justice Department attorneys, which further reinforced their previous argument in favor of the apex doctrine, a principle that asserts officials are typically exempt from depositions unless they possess firsthand knowledge of the subject matter and the information cannot be obtained through alternative means.
Justice Department attorneys had previously contended that the testimony of Wray could potentially eliminate the need for a deposition with Trump. The DOJ referred to “newly available evidence” in their argument, although much of the specific details were redacted in the court filing.
In her Thursday order, Jackson ruled that depositions involving Trump could go ahead.
Given the limited nature of the deposition that has been ordered, and the fact that the former President’s schedule appears to be able to accommodate other civil litigation that he has initiated, the outcome of the balancing required by the apex doctrine remains the same for all of the reasons previously stated,” Jackson wrote.
Additionally, she noted that the existing testimony did not seem to bolster the claim that Trump was directly responsible for terminating Strzok. However, she highlighted that the former president had “publicly boasted” about his participation in the issue.
Two months ago, Jackson had approved the blocking of deposing Trump on May 24 in relation to the lawsuits, supporting the Justice Department’s plea to depose Wray first. However, she reiterated that her previous decision to allow Trump’s deposition remained valid.
Following the exposure of critical text messages about Trump in December 2017, Strzok and Page were removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In one exchange, Strzok suggested that he and the bureau would stop Trump from becoming president in favor of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.
Reports also noted that Strzok and Page had a romantic relationship for a time.
Subsequently, they were also fired from their positions at the FBI.
Trump has been charged with 34 counts related to his handling of classified documents after leaving office by special counsel Jack Smith. He also faces a 37-count indictment in Manhattan by District Attorney Alvin Bragg in relation to a hush money payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.
And, Trump may be about to face additional charges in Fulton County, Ga., over allegations that he and his team attempted to unlawfully interfere in the outcome of the 2020 election in that state.
According to a letter obtained by The New York Times last month, District Attorney Fani Willis has reportedly told her staff to work remotely from July 31 through August 18 while also asking judges in a downtown Atlanta courthouse not to schedule any trials between August 7 and August 14.
“The moves suggest that [Willis] is expecting a grand jury to unseal indictments during that time period,” the Times reported.