The Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to block a judge’s decision allowing former President Donald Trump to testify in connection with a pair of lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
In an application to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, government attorneys argued that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was wrong in allowing the impeachment plans to proceed after a series of top federal officials testified that “no substantial evidence” to suggest Strzok was unfairly fired under pressure from Trump.
Strzok’s lawyers have pushed for Trump’s impeachment as part of a 2019 lawsuit against the FBI and the Justice Department to determine whether Trump met with and pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to fire him or to urge White House aides to do so.
The Justice Department also said in a separate court Tuesday that it would no longer intervene on Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump sat for a statement last year in a separate lawsuit brought by Carroll.
Jackson last week rejected a request from the Justice Department to reconsider its earlier ruling that Strzok’s lawyers could move forward with Trump’s impeachment. The Justice Department had argued in support of the “apex doctrine,” which says officials are generally not subject to statements unless they have some personal knowledge of the case and the information cannot be obtained elsewhere.
In Tuesday’s 43-page filing, government lawyers further emphasized that point, saying that statements in civil trials involving current and former senior government officials about their professional duties are allowed only in “extraordinary circumstances” and that Strzok’s lawsuit is “far falls short of that standard.”
The Justice Department also highlighted others who have already made statements in the case, including former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Jackson had previously granted the Justice Department’s request to impeach FBI Director Christopher Wray for Trump in the case.
In a statement Tuesday, Strzok’s attorney, Aitan Goelman, said Jackson’s ruling was “consistent with both binding precedent and the interests of justice.”
“The effort the administration has taken to avoid this statement is striking and suggests that their real concern is what Mr. Trump will say, rather than the interests underlying the Apex Doctrine,” Goelman said.
“It is particularly telling that the administration insisted that prosecutors first impeach the current FBI director, despite all the demands on his time, to the former president, who has repeatedly bragged about ‘getting rid’ of Agent Strzok, a man who devoted his career to protecting this country.”
A Trump spokesman and lawyers for Page did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
Strzok and Page were removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after critical text messages critical of Trump were made public in December 2017.
Trump often belittled Strzok and Page while in office. Strzok claims he was wrongfully fired, while Page claims privacy violations. Page, who resigned as FBI attorney in May 2018, argues in her lawsuit that the text messages she exchanged with Strzok were disclosed illegally and that attacks by Trump and his associates damaged her reputation.
Their affairs are consolidated for the purpose of discovery.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com