A federal judge on Thursday greenlighted the depositions of former President Trump and FBI Director Christopher Wray in suits from two former employees of the bureau who argue they were unfairly targeted due to their work investigating the former president’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election.
Text messages between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page, who were engaged in an affair, show the two discussing the investigation into Trump and making critical comments about him.
Strzok, who was fired from the bureau, is challenging his dismissal, while Page, who resigned, similarly asserts that Trump and his appointees targeted her out of a political vendetta.
An order from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, allows a two-hour deposition of each figure — if President Biden makes no executive privilege claims over any aspect of the testimony.
The Department of Justice sought to quash Strzok’s requests to depose Trump and Wray, contending that he had not shown their testimony was needed.
But Jackson said the testimony can move forward under the “apex doctrine,” which only permits depositions of high-ranking government officials when they have some personal knowledge about the matter and the information cannot be obtained elsewhere.
Her order, however, limits the depositions to “the narrow set of topics” specified at a sealed court hearing on Thursday.
Strzok filed his suit in 2019 after being fired the year prior. It came after a series of August 2016 text messages surfaced that showed Strzok telling Page that people had to “stop” then-candidate Trump from becoming president.
Trump often pointed to the text messages between Strzok and Page to suggest he faced unfair scrutiny by the FBI, kicking off what would become a pattern of dismissing investigations into him as politically motivated.
Both Strzok and Page were involved in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
Strzok has argued that his dismissal was politically motivated because an FBI executive originally recommended a less extreme disciplinary response to his conduct.
He contends that his dismissal violated his First Amendment rights to political speech and that the FBI deprived him of due process under the Fifth Amendment by denying him the right to appeal the decision. His lawsuit further claims federal law enforcement illegally leaked the text messages to the press.
Updated at 4:52 p.m.