The Justice Department notified former Trump administration officials this week that they could testify to the various committees investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.
Witnesses can give “unrestricted testimony” to the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said in a letter this week. Both panels are scrutinizing the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the election in its final days and the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The decision runs counter to the views of former President Donald J. Trump, who has argued that his decisions and deliberations are protected by executive privilege. It also sets up a potential court battle if Mr. Trump sues in a bid to block any testimony.
In that case, the courts could be forced to decide the extent to which a former president can be protected by privilege. Mr. Trump’s supporters have argued that a president cannot function if privilege can be taken away by a successor, exposing sensitive decision-making and opening up the previous administration to scrutiny.
But others say that the matter is settled law, and that privilege does not apply to extraordinary circumstances.
In his last weeks in office, Mr. Trump pressured Justice Department officials to help him overturn the results of the election, asking them to open investigations into claims of vote tampering that investigators said they had already looked into and determined to be untrue.
“Department lawyers, including those who have left the department, are obligated to protect nonpublic information they learned in the course of their work,” the Justice Department said in a letter signed by Bradley Weinsheimer, a top ranking career official in the deputy attorney general’s office.
“The extraordinary events in this matter constitute exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress,” he wrote, noting that the information sought by Congress was directly related to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to use the Justice Department to advance his “personal political interests” by subverting the results of the election.