The House committee investigating the Capitol riot said Friday it's cooperating with a Justice Department request to share transcripts of their witness interviews.
The committee is "engaged in a cooperative process to address the needs of the Department of Justice. We are not inclined to share the details of that publicly," the panel said in a statement. "We believe accountability is important and won’t be an obstacle to the department’s prosecutions.”
In a letter to the committee this week, senior DOJ officials ramped up pressure on the panel to comply with their request from April for the transcripts, saying the documents are "critical" to its work investigating the riot.
“It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced,” the officials wrote, after Committee Chair Bennie Thomson, D-Miss., expressed reluctance in sharing the transcripts until the panel's investigation is complete.
“Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews.”
The letter was signed by Matthew Graves, U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Polite, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Criminal Division; and Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for the department’s National Security Division.
The New York Times was first to report the panel’s decision to cooperate, citing several people familiar with the talks who said the DOJ could start receiving the transcripts next month.
The committee initially indicated it planned to turn the transcripts over in September, and Thompson suggested on Thursday that prosecutors might have to wait awhile.
“We are in the midst of conducting our hearings. We have a program to get over, we have to get the facts and circumstances behind Jan. 6,” he said. “We will work with them, but we have a report to do. We are not going to stop what we’re doing to share the information that we’ve gotten so far with the Department of Justice. We have to do our work.”
The DOJ's letter was included in a Thursday filing by prosecutors consenting to a motion seeking to delay the trial of several Proud Boys defendants, one of whom was mentioned by name in a snippet of witness testimony in the committee's first public hearing last week.
Lawyers for Joseph Biggs and Dominic Pezzola contended the transcripts are "must-haves" before they stand trial, which has been set for August. Both have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The committee has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses as part of their sprawling probe. "Those transcripts are important for Biggs and Pezzola to have and review before trial — not during or after,” their filing said.
The government agreed with the assessment on Thursday, saying in a filing that the anticipated September release of the transcripts "will prejudice the ability of all parties to prepare for trial."
DOJ officials have also said they could use the transcripts in investigations the public and the panel does not yet know about.
"As you are aware, grand jury investigations are not public and thus the Select Committee does not and will not know the identity of all the witnesses who have information relevant to the Department’s ongoing criminal investigations,” they told the committee.
The FBI has arrested more than 825 people in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and more than 310 have already pleaded guilty.