The Justice Department is seeking to stop a deposition with Donald Trump this month in lawsuits filed by two former FBI officials who have been frequent targets of criticism by the former president.
In a redacted court filing Thursday, Justice Department attorneys said Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar authorized an appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., unless a lower court judge reconsiders an earlier ruling allowing Trump’s deposition to take place before a deposition with FBI Director Christopher Wray.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in February that Trump and Wray could be deposed in the lawsuits, which Peter Strzok and Lisa Page brought against the Justice Department and the FBI in 2019.
Justice Department attorneys said in Thursday's filing that they just recently learned that Trump's deposition has been scheduled for May 24, before any deposition for Wray.
“Contrary to the request of the United States, Mr. Strzok seeks to depose former President Trump before Director Wray, thereby making it impossible to determine if the Director’s deposition might obviate the need to depose the former President,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in a 10-page motion to block Trump's deposition.
They asked the court to resolve the matter by Tuesday.
Lawyers for Strzok declined to comment. Attorneys for Page and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a court filing in March, the Justice Department said Trump “has not requested an assertion of privilege over any of the information within the scope of the authorized depositions.”
Jackson's ruling in February said the Trump and Wray depositions must be limited to two hours and to a “narrow set of topics” that were discussed at a sealed hearing.
Trump frequently targeted Strzok and Page during his presidency. They made headlines in December 2017 when it was announced that they had been removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation over text messages that disparaged Trump.
Page’s lawsuit alleges privacy violations and Strzok’s alleges wrongful termination, with both citing the release of text messages.
Page, who resigned as the FBI’s counsel in May 2018, had argued in her lawsuit that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were unlawfully released and that attacks by Trump and his allies had damaged her reputation.
Strzok's lawyers are seeking Trump's deposition to determine whether he met with and directly pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to fire Strzok or directed any White House staff members to do so.
If the deposition moves ahead as planned, it would come on the heels of a finding by a federal jury in New York that Trump is liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump has indicated he will appeal the verdict.
He also faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments from 2016. Trump pleaded not guilty last month to all charges.