On Thursday, a U.S. judge ordered former President Donald Trump to be deposed in a pair of lawsuits against the FBI and Justice Department by two former agency officials who claim they were targets of an improper campaign orchestrated by the White House to pressure them politically.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that FBI Director Christopher Wray must also sit for deposition by attorneys for the pair, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, who were in a group of FBI employees who traded text messages during the 2016 presidential campaign that were critical of then-candidate Trump.
In a brief order, Judge Berman Jackson said that Trump should sit for two hours of questioning on a “narrow set” of subjects and that Wray should also be queried under the same limited parameters.
Trump contends Page and Strzok; FBI biased against him
Page and Strzok figured prominently in Trump’s contention that the FBI was biased against him.
An FBI special agent who worked on investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, Strzok sued in 2019 and alleged his 2018 firing resulted from Trump’s political pressure. His lawsuit claims he was wrongfully terminated.
Page resigned from her position as a senior lawyer with the FBI and sued over purported violations that stemmed from the leak of messages.
The Justice Department maintains that Strzok was dismissed for undermining trust in the bureau and violating FBI policies.
Both Wray and Trump have resisted subpoenas to make an appearance for depositions. They argue that Strzok hadn’t cleared the high bar to oust senior government officials by demonstrating that Wray and Trump had information relevant to the case.
Judge Jackson held a hearing under seal Thursday to hear arguments about those issues.
Strzok’s lawsuit claims he was let go for speech protected under the U.S. Constitution and is asking for back pay, reinstatement, and unspecified monetary damages. Page is asking for at least $1,000 in damages.
Former President Trump has resisted sitting for questioning in civil cases but has been instructed to sit for questioning in lawsuits by New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into his business and writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of sexual assault.
In James’s case, the former president declined to answer questions and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, which protects him from self-incrimination.
Former President Trump frequently tweeted about Page and Strzok while he criticized the Mueller probe, investigating possible election collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
“How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok?” tweeted Trump in July 2018.