Donald Trump's legal team in contact with Justice Dept. officials in Jan. 6 inquiry

Former President Donald Trump addresses attendees during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Saturday, July 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump's legal team has been in contact with Justice Department officials involved in the Capitol attack investigation in an apparent attempt to block access to conversations with his former top aides, two people familiar with the inquiry said Thursday.

The disclosure comes as the federal criminal inquiry appears to have ramped up in recent weeks as subpoenas have been issued to former Trump White House officials and aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

More:Federal grand jury subpoenas former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone in DOJ Jan. 6 inquiry

More:Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel, will testify Friday before Jan. 6 committee

Trump's political team issued a statement condemning the Justice actions, saying "there is clearly a concerted effort to undermine the vital, Constitutionally-rooted Executive and Attorney-Client Privileges." He characterized the Justice investigation and other inquiries as a "partisan, political persecution."

CNN first reported on what it described as talks "around whether Trump would be able to shield conversations he had while he was president from federal investigators."

Trump is expected to claim executive privilege should the Justice Department seek details of presidential conversations with aides and members of the White House Counsel's Office.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating the Capitol attack and the campaign to overturn the 2020 election, a person familiar with the matter said earlier this week.

The Justice Department's action involving Cipollone follows the former White House official's testimony last month before the House committee in its separate examination of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.

Cipollone urged then-President Donald Trump to intervene as rioters stormed the Capitol and defended Justice Department officials in rejecting Trump's demands to pursue false allegations of election fraud.

The Justice Department has declined comment on the subjects of the subpoenas and any contact with Trump's legal team.

Cipollone is the most senior known member of the Trump White House to be called before the grand jury, a significant step in the federal investigation.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone departs the U.S. Capitol following defense arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in Washington on Jan. 25, 2020. Cipollone, Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, has agreed to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence, including chief of staff Marc Short, have already appeared before the grand jury.

“How can any future President ever have private conversations with his attorneys, counselors, and other senior advisors if any such advisor is forced, either during or after the Presidency, in front of an Unselect Committee or other entity, and be forced to reveal those privileged, confidential discussions?" the Trump statement said.

The statement added: "President Trump will not be deterred by witch hunts or kangaroo courts from continuing to defend and fight for America, our Constitution, and the Truth."

Trump is not only dealing with aspects of a Justice Department inquiry. He is a focus of a separate criminal investigation in Georgia, where an Atlanta-area prosecutor is leading a wide ranging inquiry into election interference.

The examination includes Trump's January 2021 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he urged the state's top election official to "find" enough votes for Trump to win the state's 2020 presidential election.