DOJ delivers 'significant' blow to Trump's claim of 'executive privilege' as Capitol riot hearings open

DOJ delivers 'significant' blow to Trump's claim of 'executive privilege' as Capitol riot hearings open
Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, the White House.

Former president Donald Trump's alleged efforts to get Justice Department officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election constitute an "extraordinary circumstance" and are not protected by executive privilege, the DOJ wrote in a letter this week.

In the letter obtained by the New York Times, the DOJ advised officials who served in the Trump administration that they can give "unrestricted testimony" to committees investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, including the House panel that will meet for the first time Tuesday.

"The decision runs counter to the views of former President Donald J. Trump, who has argued that his decisions and deliberations are protected by executive privilege," the Times reported. "It also sets up a potential court battle if Mr. Trump sues in a bid to block any testimony.

Trump's supporters have argued that "executive privilege" applies to the former president's communications, but others say it's a matter of "settled law" that executive privilege doesn't apply to extraordinary circumstances. In this case, the Times notes, Trump "pressured DOJ officials overturn the results of the election, asking them to open investigations into claims of vote tampering that investigators said they had already looked into and determined to be untrue."

Bradley Weinsheimer, a top ranking career official in the deputy attorney general's office, noted in the letter that Trump was attempting to use the DOJ to advance his "personal political interests."

"The extraordinary events in this matter constitute exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress," Weinsheimer wrote.

Andy Wright, who served as associate counsel to former President Barack Obama, said the DOJ's decision was "a significant development."

"A really important move by DOJ to start walking back the previous administration's overly broad executive privilege claims. Keep it coming," added MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller.

Read the full story here.

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