Trump lawyers try to limit Pence aides’ testimony to Jan. 6 grand jury

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump have entered a high-stakes legal battle aimed at limiting the scope of testimony from former top White House aides to a federal grand jury investigating efforts to nullify the US election. 2020, according to people familiar with the matter.

The action sets up a potentially precedent-setting fight that could affect the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack and address the scope of a former president’s executive privilege claim or attorney. -client to preserve the confidentiality of advisers. ‘ communications.

The precise outlines of the fight, first reported by CNN, are unclear. A person familiar with the matter said the dispute involves the testimony of two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence – his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and former attorney, Greg Jacob. The men appeared before the grand jury in July and answered some questions, but not all, based on Trump’s assertion of privilege, people familiar with the matter said.

Justice Department investigating Trump’s actions in January 6 criminal investigation

Grand jury cases are generally secret. However, the case came to light after Trump attorneys Mr. Evan Corcoran, John P. Rowley III and Timothy C. Parlatore were seen in federal court in Washington on Thursday without a publicly scheduled case, with a senior federal prosecutor on January 6, Thomas Windom. A person with knowledge of the matter said Trump’s representatives were present for proceedings related to Jan. 6.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation.

Trump’s attorneys and a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in DC said they could not comment on grand jury cases. Efforts to reach representatives for Short or Jacobs were not immediately successful Friday night.

A dispute over executive privilege and the need to have a witness testify before a grand jury would typically be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell in Washington. Although Howell has in the past acted quickly, all the appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would likely drag out through the end of the year, and arguments are unlikely to be made public before then. A spokeswoman for Howell did not respond to a request for comment.

In most battles over executive privilege – which are often between Congress and the executive the two sides usually compromise and settle their differences rather than risk an unprecedented defeat for either branch of government.

But the stakes of the criminal investigation into Trump’s actions during the presidential transition after his lost re-election in November 2020 could make negotiations more difficult.

The Justice Department is interviewing witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in his inner circle who sought to replace Trump allies with certified voters from certain states that Joe Biden won, people said. close to the file. Prosecutors asked hours of detailed questions about Trump-led meetings in December 2020 and January 2021 and his pressure on Pence to void the election. These investigative leads are separate from the investigation into classified documents recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home – though that case has also sparked legal fights over issues of executive and attorney privilege.

Both Short and Jacob have unique windows into these events. The two were with Pence on Jan. 6 at the Capitol. They testified with Pence’s approval before a House select committee conducting a parallel investigation, although the former vice president declined to do so himself. Jacob also told the committee that two days before the riot, Trump’s private attorney John Eastman had admitted that the plot to have Pence nullify the election was illegal.

In other legal proceedings, Trump’s attorneys have defended claims of executive privilege, warning that rulings to the contrary could harm the presidency by weakening the confidentiality afforded to conversations of top presidential advisers. They argued that allowing a sitting president to unilaterally waive a predecessor’s executive privilege could also be politicizing and defeat the purpose of the privilege.

However, Trump’s legal options to withhold testimony may have been limited by a series of court rulings since Jan. 6.

Courts have long held that White House claims of executive or attorney-client privilege are easier to overcome when the information is sought in criminal proceedings rather than by Congress. The standard for prosecutors is whether they can show that a witness is likely to have information important to the criminal investigation that would not otherwise be readily available.

And even if lawmakers must meet a higher bar, courts since January have sided with Congress and rejected an attempt by Trump to withhold thousands of pages of White House communications and filings from the House committee on January 6, and a similar effort by Eastman to do so. claim attorney-client confidentiality.

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