Merrick Garland Prepares Action To Force Trump Officials’ Testimony

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According to a new report from CNN, officials at the Justice Department are preparing for potential — and presumably likely — future stand-offs in court over executive privilege in relation to sought after testimony from individuals in Trump’s circles.

The department’s ambition, of course, would be securing testimony from these figures. The context in which Justice Department personnel are making those preparations according to CNN is the sprawling probe into what amount to various, interconnected attempts to subvert the last presidential election. That investigation already saw testimony to a federal grand jury from relatively prominent individuals in the long defunct Trump administration, including two former top aides to Mike Pence. CNN says that — ahead of the testimony from those two figures — both prosecutors and the ex-aides’ lawyers “outlined some questions [federal prosecutors] would avoid in order to steer clear of potential privilege issues, with the expectation that they could return to those questions at a later date.”

Amid expectations of executive privilege claims from Trump, who’s certainly proven he’s not interested in simply going along with investigations related to actions he and his team took, department personnel are evidently preparing to hopefully force certain targets to answer questions, in case that proves needed. “Justice Department prosecutors are preparing to fight in court to force former White House officials to testify about then-President Donald Trump’s conversations and actions around January 6,” CNN explains, based on revelations from sources. Trump apparently hasn’t yet invoked any executive privilege claims in relation to the Justice Department probe, but preemptive Justice Department preparations could no doubt substantially help in the event that happens.

It’s only relatively recently that the intensity of the Justice Department investigation into circumstances directly connected to Trump became as clear as it now seems. The news of the Pence aides testifying and of the cooperation of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson and former Justice Department official Ken Klukowski only recently came out. According to CNN, both Marc Short and Greg Jacob — the two Pence aides — didn’t answer questions about direct interactions with then-President Trump when recently questioned before a federal grand jury. Although there were those limits to what they shared, they still discussed broader pressure on Pence to try and procedurally block the certification of Biden’s win. Pence refused those Trump-led pushes.

CNN notes Trump’s already lost in other executive privilege-related court challenges, including one in which he tried to stop the House panel investigating the Capitol riot — where Jacob and Short have also testified — from obtaining certain key records from his White House. Separately, the Justice Department recently weighed in amid a civil case from former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows against the riot panel, laying out a position that former advisers to former presidents retain some level of immunity from Congressional questioning, but the department specified it didn’t take that immunity to be absolute. In addition, the department concluded the committee made an adequate case for overcoming lingering privilege concerns in pursuing info from Meadows. Those conclusions weren’t the final word; officials offered them after a request from federal Judge Carl Nichols for input.