Justice Department seeks to prevent Trump deposition in lawsuits by ex-FBI officials

The Justice Department is seeking to stop a deposition with Donald Trump this month in lawsuits filed by two former FBI officials who have been frequent targets of criticism by the former president.

In a redacted court filing Thursday, Justice Department attorneys said that Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar authorized an appeal to the the D.C. Circuit unless a lower court judge reconsiders an earlier ruling allowing Trump’s deposition to take place before a deposition with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in February ruled that Trump and Wray could be deposed in the 2019 lawsuits brought by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page against the Justice Department and the FBI.

Justice Department attorneys said in Thursday’s filing that they just recently learned that Trump’s deposition has been scheduled for May 24, before any deposition for Wray.

“Contrary to the request of the United States, Mr. Strzok seeks to depose former President Trump before Director Wray, thereby making it impossible to determine if the Director’s deposition might obviate the need to depose the former President,” DOJ attorneys wrote in a 10-page motion to block Trump’s deposition.

They asked the appeals court to resolve the matter by May 16.

Lawyers for Strzok declined to comment. Attorneys for Page and lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a March court filing, the Justice Department said Trump “has not requested an assertion of privilege over any of the information within the scope of the authorized depositions.”

Jackson’s February ruling said the Trump and Wray depositions must be limited to two hours and to a “narrow set of topics” that were discussed at a sealed hearing.

Both Strzok and Page were frequently targeted by Trump during his presidency. They made headlines in December 2017 when it was announced that they had been removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation over text messages that disparaged Trump.

Page’s lawsuit alleges privacy violations and Strzok’s makes allegations of wrongful termination, with both citing the release of text messages.

Page, who resigned as the FBI’s counsel in May 2018, had argued in her lawsuit that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were released unlawfully and that attacks by Trump and his allies had damaged her reputation.

Strzok’s lawyers are seeking Trump’s deposition to determine whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and DOJ officials to fire Strzok, or directed any White House staff to do so.

If the deposition moves ahead as planned, it would come on the heels of a federal jury in New York finding Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump has indicated he will appeal the verdict.

He is also facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments from 2016. Trump pleaded not guilty last month to all charges.

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