Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said a federal grand jury’s subpoena for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots suggested a “severe scrutiny” of Donald Trump and “those close to him.”
In an interview with CBS News on Friday, Mr. Barr also called the issuance of the subpoena a “significant event.”
Last week, a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his top deputy Patrick Philbin to recommend that the Justice Department step up its investigation.
Mr. Cipollone was also part of the legal team defending Mr. Trump in the first House impeachment trial of 2020.
The recent grand jury activity showed that prosecutors viewed the former president’s then-close advisers as potential key witnesses.
“It shows me that they are taking a hard look at the high-level groups, including the president and those around him who are involved in this,” Mr. Barr said.
The former U.S. attorney general is widely regarded as one of Trump’s most loyal administration officials.
But he has been critical of the former president’s actions on Jan. 6, going so far as to call claims of fraud in the 2020 election a “bull***.”
The grand jury meets weekly, with Mark Short (former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff) testifying in late July and interviewed by Pence’s general counsel, Greg Jacob . Washington post.
In the probe, prosecutors are reportedly looking into communications with people close to Trump and his reelection campaign.
While both Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin were aware of private conversations with Mr. Trump, executive privilege protects the president’s ability to obtain candid advice from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure.
When Mr. Cipollone was interviewed privately by another House committee last month, he declined to discuss his conversation with Mr. Trump, citing executive privilege.
But Mr Barr suspects prosecutors may be “trying to rule on executive privilege”.
“That was the biggest mountain they were going to climb, and they used that mountain as a starting point to show to me that they wanted a clear solution — not just on Cipollone — but you know, that affects [former White House chief of staff Mark] So did Meadows and a few others,” Mr Barr said.