WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, which included discussions with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people familiar with the situation.
The move, which comes as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be picking up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging Justice Department investigation. .
The House committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases, to seek new leads, or as background text for further interviews by law enforcement officials. enforcement of federal laws.
Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the committee, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be handed over, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke undercover of anonymity. because of the confidential nature of the investigations.
On April 20, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, and Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote to Timothy J. Heaphy, the lead investigator for the panel of the House, informing it that certain committee interviews “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation that we are conducting”.
Mr. Polite and Mr. Graves did not indicate how many transcripts they were requesting or whether any interviews were of particular interest. In their letter, they made a general request, asking that the panel “provide us with transcripts of these interviews and any additional interviews you conduct in the future.”
Spokespersons for the Justice Department and the House committee declined to comment.
The Justice Department investigation operated on a separate track from the committee’s work. Investigators working on the two investigations generally did not share information, except sometimes to ensure that a witness should not appear before different investigators at the same time, according to a person familiar with the investigations.
So far, the Justice Department’s investigation has focused more on the lower-level activists who stormed the Capitol than on the planners of the attack. But in recent weeks, Mr. Garland has bolstered the core team tasked with handling the most sensitive and politically combustible elements of the investigation.
Several months ago, the department quietly seconded a veteran federal prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to department headquarters. He oversees the politically tense question of whether a case can be made related to other efforts to nullify the election, aside from the storming of the Capitol. This task could bring the investigation closer to Mr. Trump and those around him.
A subpoena reviewed by The New York Times says the Justice Department is investigating actions taken by rally organizers.
Prosecutors have begun requesting records of who organized or spoke at several pro-Trump rallies after the 2020 election as well as anyone who provided security at those events, and who was considered as “VIP participants”.
They are also seeking information on any member of the executive and legislative branches who may have participated in the planning or execution of the rallies, or attempted to “obstruct, influence, obstruct or delay” the certification of the election, as the says the summons.
The Justice Department’s request for transcripts underscores how well the House committee covered and the unusual nature of a situation where a well-staffed congressional inquiry obtained testimony from key witnesses ahead of an investigation by a major jury.
The House committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, is led by Mr. Thompson and Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of only two Republicans in the House to undertake an investigation into the actions of their own party. . The panel has about 45 employees, including more than a dozen former federal prosecutors and two former U.S. attorneys, and spends more than $1.6 million a quarter on its work.
The committee obtained documents and testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including more than a dozen Trump White House officials, rally organizers and some of the rioters themselves. These witnesses have included White House attorneys; officials from the Ministry of Justice; security agents; members of the National Guard; staffers close to Vice President Mike Pence; members of Mr. Trump’s personal legal team; Republicans who participated in a scheme to nominate pro-Trump voters from states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Mr. Trump’s own family members; and the leaders of right-wing militias.
At least 16 Trump allies have signaled they will not cooperate fully with the committee. Faced with such resistance, panel investigators removed a page from the organized crime prosecutions and quietly turned at least six lower-level Trump administration personnel into witnesses who provided information about the activities of their bosses.
Some of those witnesses — including an aide to Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff — provided critical information.
The committee also attempted to obtain testimony from Republican members of Congress and issued subpoenas to five lawmakers last week. These members disparaged the work of the panel but declined to say whether they would participate in the interviews, which are scheduled for the end of May. One of the lawmakers, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said he received his subpoena on Monday and is reviewing it.
Mr. Garland and his top aides have been careful not to disclose their investigative methods and have sought to emphasize their impartiality in limited public commentary on the investigation.
“We investigate conduct and crimes, not people or views,” Assistant Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said last week in an interview at the University of Chicago.
“We follow the evidence,” she added. “It’s very important to do it methodically.”