Former US Attorney General Bill Barr has said that federal grand jury subpoenas over the January 6 Capitol riots suggest that Donald Trump and “the people immediately around him” are being dealt a “hard blow”.
Barr in a CBS News interview on Friday also called the issuance of the subpoenas a “significant event.”
Last week, the federal grand jury investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his top deputy Patrick Philbin, suggesting a more intensified investigation by the US Justice Department.
Cipollone was also part of the legal team that defended Trump in his first impeachment trial in 2020.
This recent grand jury activity suggested that prosecutors were considering the former president’s then-close advisers as potentially important witnesses.
“This suggests to me that they are looking hard at the group at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him who were involved in this,” Barr said.
The former US attorney general was widely regarded as one of Trump’s most loyal administration officials.
But he has been critical of the former president’s actions on January 6, even calling claims that the 2020 election was rigged “bulls***”.
The grand jury has been meeting once a week, with Marc Short – former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff – testifying in late July, and Greg Jacob, Mr Pence’s chief lawyer, also being interviewed, according to Washington Post.
In the investigation, the prosecution examines the communications of those close to Trump and his re-election campaign.
While both Mr Cipollone and Mr Philbin would have been concerned about private conversations with Mr Trump, executive privilege can protect a president’s ability to obtain candid advice from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure.
When interviewed privately by a separate House committee last month, Mr Cipollone declined to discuss his conversations with Mr Trump, citing executive privilege.
But Barr suspects that prosecutors may “try to get a ruling on the issue of executive privilege”.
“It’s kind of the biggest mountain for them to climb, and the fact that they’re leading off with that to me suggests that they want a definitive solution – not just on Cipollone – but, you know, this will affect [former White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows and some of the other people as well,” Barr said.