Tensions between the US Department of Justice and the House of Representatives Jan. 6 select committee escalated after federal prosecutors complained that their inability to access witness transcripts was hampering criminal investigations into rioters who stormed the Capitol.
The complaint from the heads of the Justice Department’s National Security and Criminal Divisions and Washington U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves showed a likely collision course for parallel congressional and criminal investigations into the Capitol attack.
“Interviews conducted by the select committee are not only potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions,” Graves wrote, alongside assistant attorneys general Kenneth Polite and Matthew Olsen.
“The fact that the select committee did not grant the department access to these transcripts complicates the department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal acts in connection with the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”
Federal prosecutors are seeking all transcripts from the select committee as they quietly expand their criminal investigation into organizers of the Jan. 6 rally and people in Donald Trump’s orbit, according to a source familiar with the matter and the court’s subpoenas. grand jury examined by the Guardian.
The Justice Department has appointed a grand jury in Washington to investigate the organizers of the rally, examining whether executive or legislative officials were involved in an attempt to criminally obstruct Joe Biden’s congressional certification.
Another grand jury also appears to be investigating political operatives and lawyers close to Trump, including the ex-president’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, for their involvement in a scheme to send fake Trump voters to Congress on 6 January.
The Justice Department has also signaled potential interest in moving more aggressively in prosecutions related to the Capitol attack. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said this week that he and federal prosecutors are closely monitoring select committee hearings on Capitol Hill.
But the panel has been reluctant to work with the Justice Department, in part for fear it will lose control of its work once it releases the transcripts or that prosecutors will misinterpret their evidence, according to a source familiar with investigation.
Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said Thursday that the panel would eventually cooperate with the Justice Department, but the panel was “not going to stop what we’re doing to share the information we’ve gotten… We have to do our work.
The public repudiation by top Justice Department officials — the letter came during the panel’s third hearing on the Capitol attack — marks the latest point in steadily deteriorating relations ahead of impending trial dates for the members. of the far-right group Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors said they are seeking witness transcripts as part of their preparations for a scheduled September trial of five prominent members of the Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy and obstructing official process on Jan. 6.
The Justice Department complaint was included in a court filing as part of prosecutors’ notice to the judge that they agreed with the defendants’ request to delay the trial due to a lack of access transcripts of panel witnesses.
US District Judge Timothy Kelly set a hearing on the matter for next Wednesday after an attorney for one of the Proud Boys, Ethan Nordean, objected to the postponement of the trial. Kelly has given former Proud Boys leader Henry Tarrio and another defendant until Monday to say whether they also oppose the request.