In a win for the Justice Department, a federal judge on Friday blocked a May 24 deposition of former President Donald Trump in connection with a pair lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
The order from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was in response to a Justice Department motion filed on Thursday urging her to reconsider an earlier ruling that said that Trump and FBI Director Christopher Wray could be deposed in the lawsuits, without specifying the order of depositions. Government attorneys argued that Wray's deposition, which has not been scheduled, could make Trump's unnecessary.
In her order Friday, Berman Jackson referred to her February ruling that Trump and Wray could be deposed for no more than two hours and limited to a “narrow set of topics” in lawsuits Strzok and Page brought against the Justice Department and the FBI in 2019.
"The Court is somewhat surprised to learn that since then, the parties have done nothing more than wrangle over the order of the two depositions," Berman Jackson wrote. "The government seems chagrined that the Court did not order that the deposition of the FBI Director be completed first, but it may recall that it was the Court’s view that it was Director Wray, the only current high-ranking public official in the group of proposed deponents, whose ongoing essential duties fell most squarely under the protection of the doctrine in question."
The doctrine referenced by the judge says that the lower-ranking government official should be deposed first in case their responses make it unnecessary to interview the higher-ranking official.
The judge also defended her earlier ruling.
"The Court’s ruling was appropriate in light of all of the facts, including the former President’s own public statements concerning his role in the firing of the plaintiff," Berman Jackson wrote.
Attorneys for Strzok, Page and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday night.
Strzok and Page were both removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after text messages that were critical of Trump became public in December 2017. As president, Trump often disparaged the two officials.
Page’s lawsuit alleges privacy violations, while Strzok argues that he was wrongfully terminated.
Strzok’s lawyers are seeking Trump’s deposition to determine whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to terminate Strzok or told any White House staff members to do so.
Page, who resigned as an FBI lawyer in May 2018, argues in her lawsuit that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were unlawfully released and that attacks by Trump and his allies have harmed her reputation.