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Judge denies Justice Department request to block Trump deposition in lawsuits by ex-FBI officials

Lawyers for Peter Strzok want to depose Trump in hope of finding out whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to terminate their client.

A federal judge on Thursday rejected an effort by the Justice Department to prevent former President Donald Trump from sitting for a deposition related to a pair lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington, D.C., is a victory for Strzok’s attorneys, who are seeking Trump’s deposition to determine whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to fire Strzok or urged any White House aides to do so.

The order was in response to the Justice Department’s request that she reconsider an earlier ruling that said Strzok’s attorneys could move forward with a deposition of Trump in lawsuits against the Justice Department and the FBI that Strzok and Page filed in 2019.

The Justice Department had argued Wednesday that “newly available evidence” stemming from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony last week, as well as sworn testimony from other high-level government officials with “direct knowledge” of Trump’s communications regarding Strzok and Page, was grounds for reconsidering a deposition involving Trump.

“The availability of that evidence to Mr. Strzok means the deposition of former President Trump is not appropriate,” the government attorneys wrote, expanding on their earlier argument in support of what’s known as the apex doctrine, which states that officials are generally not subject to depositions unless they have some personal knowledge of the matter and the information can’t be obtained elsewhere.

Justice Department attorneys had argued that Wray’s testimony could make it unnecessary to have a deposition with Trump. Much of the “newly available evidence” cited by the Justice Department was redacted from the court filing.

In her order Thursday, Jackson said a deposition with Trump can move forward.

“Given the limited nature of the deposition that has been ordered, and the fact that the former President’s schedule appears to be able to accommodate other civil litigation that he has initiated, the outcome of the balancing required by the apex doctrine remains the same for all of the reasons previously stated,” Jackson wrote.

She also said that while existing testimony didn’t appear to strengthen the argument that Trump played a role in terminating Strzok, he had “publicly boasted” about his involvement in the matter.

Lawyers for Strzok and Page didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither did the Justice Department or a spokesperson for Trump.

Two months ago, Jackson agreed to block a May 24 deposition of Trump in connection with the lawsuits, siding with the Justice Department’s request that Wray be deposed first, but she maintained that her earlier ruling allowing Trump’s deposition was correct.

Strzok and Page were booted from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after text messages that were critical of Trump became public in December 2017. They were later dismissed from the FBI.

Trump often disparaged Strzok and Page while he was in office. While Strzok argues that he was wrongfully terminated, Page, who resigned as an FBI lawyer in May 2018, alleges privacy violations. Her lawsuit contends that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were released unlawfully and that attacks by Trump and his associates have damaged her reputation.

Source: NBC News