Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said the federal grand jury subpoenas for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots suggest that Donald Trump and the people immediately surrounding him are “cruel.”
Mr Barr in an interview with CBS News on Friday also called the delivery 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 intensive investigation by the US Justice Department.
Mr. Cipollone was also part of the legal team that defended Trump in his first House impeachment trial in 2020.
That recent grand jury activity suggested prosecutors consider the former president’s then-close advisers as potentially vital witnesses.
“That suggests to me that they are looking carefully at the team at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him, who were involved in this,” Mr Barr said.
The former US attorney general was widely regarded as one of Trump’s most loyal administration officials.
However, he was critical of the former president’s actions on January 6 and even called claims that the 2020 election was rigged “bulls***”.
The grand jury meets 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 counsel, also being interviewed. according The Washington Post.
In the probes, prosecutors are reportedly looking into the communications of people close to Mr. Trump and his re-election campaign.
While both Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin would be privy to private conversations with Mr. Trump, executive privilege can protect the president’s ability to get candid advice from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure.
When Cipollone was interviewed privately by a separate House committee last month, he declined to discuss his conversations with Mr. Trump, citing executive privilege.
However, Mr Barr suspected that prosecutors might “try to make a decision on the issue of executive privilege”.
“That’s kind of the biggest mountain for them to climb, and the fact that they’re leading with it to me suggests that they want a definitive solution — not just for Cipollone — but you know, it’s going to affect [former White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows and some of the other people as well,” Mr Barr said.