Jan. 6 select panel takes over House probe of Trump DOJ

By | August 5, 2021

A key House committee has postponed multiple scheduled witness interviews about Donald Trump’s final days in office, handing them off to the select panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

“As the Oversight Committee continues its crucial oversight work, we look forward to the Select Committee fully exposing the former president’s unconstitutional attacks on our democracy and attempts to stay in power after the American people voted him out of office,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday.

The movement of those interviews with former Justice Department aides marks an abrupt change in House Democrats’ investigations of the end of Trump’s presidency. The shift underscores the growing importance of the select committee’s work as it readies its next steps with a political spotlight on Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the panel’s two anti-Trump Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

And notably, the shift in the investigation not appear to affect the upper chamber; a Senate Judiciary Committee spokeswoman said Thursday that the panel is beginning to interview witnesses this week in its own inquiry. The chair of that panel, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), told POLITICO that his committee planned to interview two Trump-era DOJ Justice Department officials soon.

The House Oversight Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sources said it has canceled plans to interview former acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and his former second-in-command, Richard Donoghue. Those interviews had been scheduled for this week and next. Instead, the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot will question the two men.

A third top Trump-era DOJ official — Rosen’s former senior counsel Patrick Hovakimian — answered questions in a closed-door interview with the Oversight panel earlier this week, making the current shift more striking. The Oversight committee also obtained a draft email Hovakimian wrote announcing that he and Donoghue had resigned because Trump fired Rosen. Trump didn’t fire Rosen, though, and Hovakimian never sent out the email.

The abrupt change came a few hours after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement with effusive praise of Maloney.

“The Chairwoman’s persistent pursuit of the truth will contribute greatly to the work of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” the statement said.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.