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The Justice Department wants to see the Jan. 6 committee's transcripts

Chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., talks with the media after a hearing of the committee, Thursday, June 16, 2022, on Capitol Hill.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP
Chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., talks with the media after a hearing of the committee, Thursday, June 16, 2022, on Capitol Hill.

The Justice Department has asked the lead investigator for the House Jan. 6 select committee for speedy access to transcripts of witness interviews, arguing the lack of information-sharing is complicating its ongoing criminal probe.

Top DOJ officials have renewed a request they first made in April — before the panel launched blockbuster public hearings in which they quoted from prosecutors' court filings and played video featuring defendants in an ongoing seditious conspiracy case the department brought against the far-right Proud Boys group.

The committee will turn over transcripts in "due time," but not by the end of the week, Chair Bennie Thompson told reporters after Thursday's hearing.

"We will work with them, but we have a report to do," he said. "We are not going to stop what we are doing to share information that we've gotten so far with the Department of Justice."

The transcripts will be critical to help prosecutors assess the credibility of people they consider witnesses or subjects of investigations, wrote the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and the assistant attorneys general in charge of the criminal and national security divisions in a letter dated June 15.

"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 investigations," wrote Matthew Graves, Kenneth Polite and Matthew Olsen.

The recipient of the letter is Timothy Heaphy, the chief investigative counsel for the committee and himself a former U.S. attorney during the Obama administration.

The delay in getting access to the transcripts complicates the ongoing Justice Department criminal probe, already the largest and most complex in history, the DOJ officials said.

At least two Proud Boy defendants facing trial on seditious conspiracy and other charges have cited the congressional hearings as a basis to postpone their criminal trial in Washington, D.C., from early August until after the midterm elections this year.

House investigators so far have refused to turn over transcripts to DOJ but instead said they would be released en masse in early September, as the committee finishes its work and publishes a final report.

A judge has not yet ruled on a request to delay the Proud Boys trial, and is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss postponement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough appeared to consent to a delay in a new court filing.

"While we do not know precisely when copies of the transcripts will be released, if they are released as anticipated in early September 2022, the parties to this trial will face unique prejudice because the jury for the August 8 trial will have already been sworn..." he wrote in court papers filed Thursday.

With additional reporting from Lexie Schapitl

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

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