The days are ticking down until the Jan. 6 committee launches its public hearings, but in the meantime, the Justice Department (DOJ) has reportedly asked the panel to provide it with transcripts from some of the 1,000-plus interviews investigators have conducted in private thus far with former members of the Trump administration and others in his orbit.
The request was first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday though it was not yet clear whether a “final agreement” had been struck between the committee and the department.
The department wants the records according to the Times, because the documents could supplement its own sprawling and ongoing probe into Jan. 6. So far, the DOJ has prosecuted more than 800 people for crimes related to the attack.
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After the news broke this week, committee chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, told Politico he understood the department wanted access to the probe’s “work product.”
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But, Thompson told the department they were “not giving that to anybody.”
He clarified to the Times, however, that there would need to be a distinction in what might be shared.
Granting full access to records would be “premature at this point,” he noted, because the probe has yet to complete its investigation.
Since it has begun its probe in July 2021, the committee has made a concerted effort to keep the separation of powers between the department and the legislative branch distinct. The committee does not have, for example, the power to charge anyone with any crimes, despite protestations from members of the House GOP otherwise.
It can, however, issue a criminal referral for the Justice Department to consider should the panel unearth possible crimes in the course of its review.
For now, it is unclear what specific transcripts the department is after but it has been reported that the request was presented as a bargain: If the committee provides some of its transcripts, the department could “turn over evidence in exchange” that may help the committee’s investigation now in its final stages.
Tim Heaphy, the top investigator for the Jan. 6 Committee sent a letter with the request in mid-April.
It was suggested by anonymous sources at the Times that the transcripts could bolster what the department has already learned about those individuals who helped plan the rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and in particular, what role, if any, higher ranking officials in the White House and Congress may have played.
The committee is still busy interviewing witnesses. Just this week, Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary and chief of staff to former First Lady Melania Trump, met with the panel for a second time.
Grisham first appeared this January, just before the first anniversary of the Capitol attack. She cooperated fully then and reportedly cooperated fully now.
The former press secretary resigned on January 6 but told NBC last October that she had prepared to step down many times before the insurrection.
January 6 was her “breaking point,” she said.
“I was really proud that I was, well, the first in the administration to resign,” Grisham added.
Grisham was sought after by the probe because of her proximity to Trump while the mob was unleashed.
When she appeared on CNN’s New Day earlier this year, Grisham said the former president was in the dining room and “gleefully” watching the mob lay siege to the Capitol.
“Look at all of the people fighting for me,” Grisham recalled Trump saying at the time.
He would rewind the footage back, and play it again, she said.
That comment corroborates public reporting about Trump’s conduct that day. A reporter from The Washington Post, Carol Leonning, said in an interview in 2021 that Trump watched the insurrection unfold in real-time and was “almost giddy.”