Court Battles

DOJ: Jan. 6 committee’s refusal to share transcripts ‘complicates’ investigation

Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., speaks as Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., left, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., listen, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Justice Department officials this week renewed their demands for the House Jan. 6 committee’s interview transcripts, saying the panel’s refusal to share its work has hindered federal prosecutors’ own investigation into last year’s attack on the Capitol.

Department leaders sent a letter on Wednesday to Timothy Heaphy, the chief investigative counsel for the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, expressing frustration over the panel’s refusal to grant access to its trove of witness interviews, according to documents filed in federal court Thursday

“The Select Committee’s failure to grant the Department access to these transcripts complicates the Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, we renew our request that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all the interviews it has conducted to date.”

The letter was signed by Kenneth Polite, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Matthew Olsen, who leads the department’s National Security Division; and U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the select committee’s chairman, said after the hearing on Thursday that the committee would not be turning over its transcripts to the DOJ ahead of its stated timetable for releasing them in September, saying the department has not fully communicated its need for the documents to the lawmakers.

“We will work with them, but we have a report to do,” Thompson told reporters. “We are not gonna stop what we’re doing to share the information that we’ve gotten so far with the Department of Justice. We have to do our work.”

The letter indicates a growing tension between the parallel investigations run by the Justice Department and select committee, which began its series of public hearings on June 9.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday agreed to delay the trial of a group of Proud Boys leaders charged with seditious conspiracy over the Jan. 6 attack. The defendants had asked to push back the August trial date due to the media attention generated by the congressional hearings and the fact that the committee has yet to release transcripts that could be relevant to the case.

Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing on Thursday that they agreed with the defendants’ assessment, attaching their letter as an exhibit to the filing.

“The timing of the anticipated release will prejudice the ability of all parties to prepare for trial because the parties are currently unable to account for the content of those transcripts with respect to their respective cases,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Thompson said last month that the panel is unwilling to give the executive branch complete access to its work product.

“If they want to come in and say we want to look at something, that’s fine. But my understanding is they want to have access to our work product. And we told them no, we’re not giving that to anybody,” Thompson said.

“I mean, the reality is, we are conducting our own investigation. 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.”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

Updated at 5:58 p.m.

Tags Bennie Thompson Capitol attack Capitol riot Jan. 6 Committee Jan. 6 hearings Jan. 6 investigation
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