DOJ requests Jan. 6 committee transcripts, signaling escalation of Justice inquiry
The request comes as the committee prepares for its first public hearing next month, following interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses.
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has requested transcripts of interviews conducted by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the panel's chairman has initially rejected the request.
The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters the request arrived this week but that lawmakers haven't agreed to provide transcripts because they are in the midst of their own investigation.
"It's our work product. It's the committee's work product," Thompson said, adding the transcripts could be provided to the department at some point in the future.
"I mean, the reality is, we are conducting our own investigation," Thompson said. "And obviously if they want to come and talk they're perfectly welcome to come and talk and we have talked to them on other situations, but we can't give them full access to our product. That would be premature at this point, because we haven't completed our work."
The New York Times first reported the request Tuesday.
A Justice Department spokesman declined comment, as did a spokesperson for the special House committee.
The request includes the committee's discussions with associates of former President Donald Trump, signaling that the federal inquiry into the insurrection has accelerated, moving beyond the broad dragnet for the mob that stormed the Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of the 2020 election.
Thompson said the Justice Department didn't name the witnesses whose transcripts it sought.
"But my understanding is/ it came with no names attached to it or anything," Thompson said.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former president, offered voluntary testimony before the committee, the latest family member to appear before the panel.
Donald Trump Jr.'s appearance follows voluntary meetings involving sister Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom served as top advisers to the former president.
Disclosure of the Justice transcript request comes as the committee prepares for its first public hearing next month, following interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses.
The Justice inquiry is separate from the committee's investigation, but the panel took the extraordinary step last week of subpoenaing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with four other Republican lawmakers and close allies of the former president.
Thompson said McCarthy, along with Reps. Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania; Jim Jordan, of Ohio; Andy Biggs, of Arizona; and Mo Brooks of Alabama, were issued subpoenas after failing to voluntarily cooperate with the panel's investigation.
“The Select Committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6th and the events leading up to it," Thompson said in announcing the subpoenas last week. "Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th."
McCarthy has been at the center of a recent political firestorm after leaked audio tapes revealed he believed former President Donald Trump should have resigned in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks.
Earlier this year, USA TODAY reported that federal investigators have been asking suspects in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, including members of the far-right extremist group Oath Keepers, about possible links between Donald Trump, his inner circle and the rioters.
Federal prosecutors have questioned defendants facing the most serious offenses and those who played cursory roles in the attack about possible connections to the former president and those close to him as Justice has pursued its wide-ranging prosecution.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has repeatedly declined to comment on the parameters of the government's criminal investigation but has vowed to pursue perpetrators of the attack at "any level," saying authorities would "follow the facts wherever they lead."
"The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law – whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy," Garland said earlier this year.