The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jan. 6 committee has spoken with former Trump attorney general Barr, chairman says

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr arrive for a White House event in 2019. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Former attorney general William P. Barr has spoken with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, the committee chairman said Sunday, a further indication that several former Trump administration officials are cooperating with the panel even as others are fighting efforts to compel their testimony.

“We’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already. We have talked to Department of Defense individuals,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the committee, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The bipartisan House panel is investigating the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four others and injured about 140 members of law enforcement.

It is unclear what has been discussed between the committee and Barr, who stepped down as attorney general in the weeks before Jan. 6, 2021. Barr had been closely allied with Trump through most of his tenure at the Department of Justice but resigned in December 2020 after publicly disputing claims of widespread election fraud.

Thompson was asked Sunday whether he intended to ask Barr about a draft of a Trump executive order, first reported by Politico last week, that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines in battleground states. Thompson said he did, although he acknowledged that the plan was only in draft form and never became operational.

“We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false,” Thompson told CBS News. “So, if you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it’s a discussion, the public needs to know. We’ve never had that before.”

On Jan. 19, the Supreme Court rejected former president Donald Trump’s request to withhold records from the House committee investigating the Capitol attack. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The draft executive order is believed to be one of the documents that former president Donald Trump went to court to try to block from release. The document was among hundreds of pages provided to the committee by the National Archives last week, after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s arguments. Trump has baselessly claimed for more than a year that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. (There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud affecting the election’s outcome.)

So far, it appears that the committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has not asked Barr about that draft executive order, according to a person familiar with the committee’s work, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Barr could not be reached for comment Sunday. The former attorney general plans to publish a book soon about his time in the George H.W. Bush and Trump administrations, and he will touch on “the 2020 election fallout,” among other topics, according to his publisher.

The committee has ramped up its investigation in recent months, seeking voluntary cooperation from — and issuing subpoenas to — several members of Trump’s orbit, including members of his former legal team and Fox News host Sean Hannity. Last week, the committee requested voluntary testimony from Ivanka Trump, the former president’s elder daughter and White House adviser, saying that other witnesses have indicated she may have direct knowledge of Trump’s actions before, during and after the insurrection.

“The Select Committee would like to discuss any other conversations you may have witnessed or participated in regarding the President’s plan to obstruct or impede the counting of electoral votes,” Thompson wrote in his request to Ivanka Trump.

The committee’s conversations with Barr have been informal, according to a committee staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. The committee’s contact with Barr started last year as the committee sought more information about the activities of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who encouraged the department to intervene after the election.

When Clark was called before the panel last year, he declined to answer questions, citing executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. According to a transcript of a committee deposition, lawmakers had intended to ask Clark about his communications and discussions with Trump, along with efforts by the then-president to install Clark as acting attorney general.

“We then wanted to talk specifically about efforts that he took, proposed that the Department take with respect to election fraud,” said panel member Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), according to the transcript.

In addition, the committee has already interviewed Barr’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen also took questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee for a separate probe into Trump’s efforts to influence the Justice Department. Clark is expected to return for questioning before the Jan. 6 committee in the near future.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated there are seven Republicans and two Democrats on the House Jan. 6 committee, and that Barr served in the George W. Bush administration. There are seven Democrats and two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee, and Barr served in the George H.W. Bush administration. The article has been corrected.

Read more:

How Trump’s flirtation with an anti-insurrection law inspired Jan. 6 insurrection

Texas man charged with threatening election, government officials in Georgia

Analysis: What the Jan. 6 committee hopes to learn from Trump White House documents