Judge Says Trump Can Be Deposed in Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok Lawsuit

Judge Says Trump Can Be Deposed in Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok Lawsuit
FBI agent Peter Strzok during testimony before Congress in Washington on July 12, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Former President Donald Trump can be deposed in a lawsuit filed by former FBI agent Peter Strzok against the Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal judge ordered on Friday.

Mr. Strzok’s lawsuit alleges wrongful termination following the debunked Russia collusion investigation and claims that he was fired at Mr. Trump’s direction.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, agreed with the request to depose Mr. Trump in a brief order on July 6. This comes one day after the DOJ asked a final time to block Mr. Trump from being deposed.

“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,” Ms. Jackson wrote in her brief order.

Under the “apex doctrine” in U.S. law, high-ranking government officials, such as the president, enjoy a degree of immunity from being compelled to provide testimony or evidence in legal proceedings.

In May, Ms. Jackson ordered a stay on the deposition of Mr. Trump until FBI Director Christopher Wray was deposed in the lawsuit. DOJ lawyers previously argued that Mr. Wray, a lower-ranked official, should be deposed first as any evidence that he provided could mean that Mr. Trump would not have to testify.

Mr. Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who is also suing the DOJ and FBI, played key roles in the FBI Crossfire Hurricane investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mr. Strzok also played a role in the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified information. Mr. Strzok reportedly changed key language in the conclusion of the Clinton email investigation from “grossly negligent,” which would have been a crime, to “extremely careless,” which may have exonerated Ms. Clinton.

Text Messages

Special counsel Robert Mueller fired Mr. Strzok in 2018 after around 10,000 text messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page were discovered. The messages sent between 2015 and 2016 revealed the pair expressed strong anti-Trump bias in critical comments about Mr. Trump and his supporters as the two were working on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The messages also exposed an alleged affair between the two.

The FBI special counsel probe ultimately concluded that the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russian government to get elected. However, corporate media outlets aired several unfounded claims about Mr. Trump that came from what appeared to be anonymous sources within the FBI and DOJ.

The DOJ had argued that there was no evidence Mr. Strzok was fired at Mr. Trump’s direction, contending that his deposition “is not appropriate.” The DOJ claimed that Mr. Trump’s public remarks, which might have indicated his desire for Mr. Strzok to be terminated, were not the reason for the firing.

NTD Photo
(L) FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 12, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times) (R) Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, arrives on Capitol Hill on July 13, 2018. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

In a bid to distance the decision from Mr. Trump, the government contended that testimony from Mr. Wray, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, and others had already addressed the decision to terminate Mr. Strzok.

The DOJ recently argued in court that Mr. Trump’s testimony is irrelevant since it was former FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich who independently made the decision to remove Mr. Strzok.

According to the DOJ, Mr. Bowdich has said that he does not recall Mr. Wray ever informing him about any meeting in which the president pressured him regarding Mr. Strzok. Despite these assertions, Mr. Strzok’s lawyers have expressed their intention to question Mr. Trump about potential pressure exerted on FBI and DOJ officials to terminate Mr. Strzok.

“These circumstances do not rise to the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ necessary to authorize the deposition of a current or former high-ranking government official, much less a former President,” the DOJ wrote in a court filing.

Testimony Doesn’t Support Strzok’s Theory: Judge

However, Ms. Jackson noted in her ruling that while the testimony of Mr. Wray and other individuals did not support Mr. Strzok’s theory that Mr. Trump “was involved in the decision making at issue in this case, the fact remains that the former President himself has publicly boasted of his involvement.”

In February, Ms. Jackson ruled that Mr. Trump and Mr. Wray could be deposed for two hours, and she limited questions to a “narrow set of topics” in connection to the lawsuits.

According to court documents, she wrote in her earlier ruling that it “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 [Strzok].”

Mr. Strzok filed the lawsuit in 2019, which is one of several ongoing legal actions against Mr. Trump, the leading contender for the GOP 2024 presidential nomination.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Strzok has claimed that “the FBI fired [him] because of his protected political speech in violation of his rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States” over the private text messages with Ms. Page.

Ms. Page alleges in her own lawsuit that her privacy was violated by the release of the text messages, which led her to be the subject of “frequent attacks by the President of the United States, as well as his allies and supporters.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained about being treated unfairly by Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page during the FBI investigation, often pointing to negative comments the pair said about him.

Mr. Trump has also long criticized the “deep state,” the bureaucracy of permanent and unelected officials in government branches, for opposing him and his presidency. After declaring his candidacy for 2024, Mr. Trump made a campaign promise to clean out the “deep state.”

The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Trump for comment.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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