WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday ordered that former president Donald Trump and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray can be questioned under oath by attorneys for two former senior FBI employees who allege in separate lawsuits that they were illegally targeted for retribution after the FBI investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington came in consolidated lawsuits against the FBI and Justice Department by former senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who exchanged politically charged text messages criticizing Trump while they were having an affair.

Former President Donald Trump can be deposed for a lawsuit filed by two former FBI employees, a federal judge ruled. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Strzok seeks reinstatement and back pay over what he alleges was his unfair termination. Page alleges officials unlawfully released the trove of messages to reporters.

Jackson issued her ruling in the four-year-old lawsuits after attorneys for Strzok and Page showed they had completed interviews of lower-ranking officials and exhausted potential sources of information other than the former president and FBI director.

“The Court authorized the plaintiffs to conduct depositions of each witness that do not exceed two hours and are limited to the narrow set of topics specified,” Jackson ruled in a short court notice posted after a closed-door hearing Thursday.

Proceedings are sealed, so the substance of those depositions are secret, although Jackson said a public transcript will be released later after removing references to any deposition testimony.


Jackson gave the Justice Department until March 24 to decide whether to invoke executive privilege on Trump’s behalf to shield the confidentiality of a president’s communications with top advisers under the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Trump’s spokesman and attorneys for Strzok did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Page attorneys Amy Jeffress and Kaitlin Konkel declined to comment, as did the Justice Department and FBI.

The judge’s ruling on deposing the former president over events related to the 2016 election comes as Trump and his allies are already beset by multiple legal problems stemming from the 2020 campaign and its aftermath. Several top Trump administration officials including former vice president Mike Pence and chief of staff Mark Meadows have resisted subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in the Justice Department’s investigations of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by Trump supporters and the retention of classified documents at Trump’s Florida home, invoking executive or legislative privilege. Several Jan. 6 defendants – including members of the extremist group Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy – have also initiated longshot efforts to secure Trump as a witness in their trials.

The messages from 2016 between Strzok and Page discussed their intense dislike of Trump and their fear that he might win the presidency. They have fueled claims that the FBI was prejudiced against Trump since they were made public in December 2017. The exchanges have fueled scores of angry tweets and public statements by Trump and his supporters against the pair as well as former FBI director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

A recent interview in which Trump bragged about firing those FBI officials may have factored into the judge’s ruling.

“If I didn’t fire Comey, and if I didn’t fire McCabe and Strzok and Page and all of that scum that was in there, you would have had, they were trying to do an overthrow,” Trump said Feb. 2 on the Hugh Hewitt Show,


Trump, who has announced a 2024 bid for president, added, “They spied on my campaign, and I got rid of them all. . . . But . . . it was more than them, and you know that. And you know that’s coming again.”

Strzok asserted in the suit that Trump’s administration tolerated partisan political speech by federal employees – but only if it praised Trump and attacked his opponents – and alleged that his removal was “part of a broader campaign against the very principle of free speech” led by the former president.

Strzok was once one of the bureau’s top espionage and counterintelligence agents, working on investigations into both 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

But in the course of that work, Strzok and Page exchanged messages on work phones critical of numerous politicians, especially Trump, who Strzok derided as “abysmal” and a “disaster.”

In August 2016, after Page wrote Trump was “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

The Justice Department inspector general found that message implied a willingness to take official action to impact Trump’s prospects. Strzok was removed from the Russia investigation when the messages were discovered and fired from the FBI in August 2018.


Strzok alleged in the suit that others in the bureau had not received similar discipline for criticism of Clinton, and he claimed his firing was the “direct result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies on Capitol Hill.” Trump had repeatedly attacked Strzok publicly and privately and called for his firing.

Strzok asserted in the suit that his sentiments were “protected political speech,” and that his termination violated the First Amendment.

Both Strzok and Page also accused the FBI and Justice Department of violating the Privacy Act by showing reporters a document containing nearly 400 texts between them.


The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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