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Justice Dept. seeks to put Trump deposition on hold in case of FBI agent fired over text messages

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department asked a judge Thursday to put on hold a scheduled deposition of Donald Trump in a lawsuit brought by an FBI agent who was fired over text messages critical of the former president.

The government said in a federal court filing that a judge should order lawyers for Peter Strzok to take the deposition of FBI Director Christopher Wray before they seek to question Trump. The Justice Department says an interview with Wray may eliminate the need for Trump's deposition, and that if the judge handling the lawsuit does not grant its request, it will ask a federal appeals court to intervene.

Lawyers for Trump support the Justice Department’s position, according to a footnote in the government’s filing, while Strzok’s attorneys oppose it. Strzok's legal team has scheduled the deposition for May 24.

Strzok was a veteran counterintelligence agent and a lead official in the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state and into Russian election interference and potential coordination between Moscow and the 2016 Trump campaign.

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The filing comes as Trump finds himself the subject of criminal investigations by a Justice Department special counsel into efforts by him and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as into the retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

But when it comes to deposing a current or former high-level government official in a civil matter, the Justice Department notes, a party must show there are “extraordinary circumstances" for the interview.

“These circumstances do not rise to the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ necessary to authorize the deposition of a current or former high-ranking government official, much less a former President,” the Justice Department wrote.

He sued in 2019, saying the FBI had caved to “unrelenting pressure” from Trump when it fired him and that he was unfairly terminated for expressing his political opinions.

As part of the lawsuit, Strzok's lawyers have said they want to question Trump about whether he met with and pressured FBI and Justice Department officials to fire him.

But the Justice Department says that the former FBI deputy director, David Bowdich, has already said that he made the decision to fire Strzok on his own, and that he did not recall Wray ever telling him about any meeting with Trump in which the president pressured him about Strzok.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP