In a victory for the Justice Department, a federal judge on Friday blocked a May 24 statement from former President Donald Trump regarding a pair of lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
The order by US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was in response to a Justice Department motion filed Thursday urging her to reconsider an earlier ruling that said Trump and FBI Director Christopher Wray could be named in the lawsuits, without specifying the order of the declarations. Government lawyers argued that Wray’s statement, which has not been scheduled, could make Trump’s unnecessary.
In his order Friday, Berman Jackson referred to his February ruling that Trump and Wray could be deposed for no more than two hours and limited to a «limited set of issues» in the lawsuits Strzok and Page filed against the department. of Justice and the FBI in 2019. .
«The Court is somewhat surprised to learn that since then, the parties have done nothing more than argue over the order of the two statements,» Berman Jackson wrote. «The government seems upset that the Court did not order the FBI Director’s plea to be completed first, but you may recall that the Court found that it was Director Wray, the only current high-ranking public official in the group of proposed deponents, whose ongoing essential duties fell more directly under the protection of the doctrine in question.
The doctrine to which the judge refers says that the lower-ranking government official should be deposed first if his answers make it unnecessary to interview the higher-ranking official.
The judge also upheld his earlier ruling.
«The Court’s ruling was appropriate in light of all the facts, including the former President’s own public statements about his role in Plaintiff’s dismissal,» Berman Jackson wrote.
Lawyers for Strzok, Page and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday night.
Strzok and Page were removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after text messages critical of Trump were released in December 2017. As president, Trump often disparaged the two officials.
Page’s lawsuit alleges privacy violations, while Strzok argues he was wrongfully terminated.
Strzok’s lawyers are seeking Trump’s statement to determine whether he met with FBI and Justice Department officials and directly pressured them to fire Strzok or told any White House staff to do so.
Page, who resigned as an FBI lawyer in May 2018, argues in her lawsuit that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were illegally disclosed and that attacks by Trump and his allies damaged her reputation.