According to persons with knowledge of the situation, the DOJ is looking into Donald Trump’s activities as part of its criminal investigation into attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, prosecutors have recently questioned witnesses testifying before a grand jury, including two of Vice President Mike Pence’s top aides, about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to replace certified electors from some states Joe Biden won with Trump allies. Both individuals discussed an ongoing inquiry under the condition of anonymity.
The people said that the prosecutors have grilled Trump for hours in detail about meetings he presided over in December 2020 and January 2021, his campaign to pressure Pence into annulling the election, and the instructions he gave to his lawyers and advisers regarding the use of phony electors and the return of electors to the states. According to these witnesses, several of the inquiries specifically addressed how much Trump was involved in the effort to rig the election under the direction of his outside counsel, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani.
Justice Department investigators also got in April phone records of significant Trump administration officials and staffers, including his former head of staff, Mark Meadows. That endeavor is another indication of how extensive the Jan. 6 investigation had become, well before the highly publicized, televised House hearings on the matter in June and July.
The DOJ is reportedly looking at how Eastman, Giuliani, and other people close to Trump behaved, according to prior reports from The Washington Post and other media outlets. However, neither the level of prosecutors’ interest in Trump’s conduct nor the examination of the phone records of key Trump advisers had been previously revealed.
Requests for response from a Trump spokeswoman were not immediately entertained. Both a Justice Department official and Meadows’s attorney declined to respond to questions.
The disclosures heighten the stakes of a politically sensitive inquiry involving a former president who is still crucial to his party’s chances and who has survived two impeachments and other inquiries. Trump has been complaining about the Justice Department and the FBI for years before to the Jan. 6 probe; the investigation’s proximity to him is likely to exacerbate this animosity.
Federal criminal investigations are by their very nature secretive, and those involving public individuals are among the Justice Department’s best-kept secrets. Many don’t result in charges. The Justice Department has been under fire, especially from the left, for not pursuing the matter forcefully enough due to the absence of discernible investigative action involving Trump and his White House for more than a year following the incident on January 6.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, investigators want to know, at the very least, what Trump instructed his attorneys and top officials to do in order to better understand how and why Trump supporters and lawyers attempted to influence the outcome of the election. Investigations into attempts to overturn election results must traverse tricky questions of political activity protected by the First Amendment and whether or not an individual’s comments might be used as part of an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
The extensive criminal inquiry that began on January 6 is still under wraps in many ways. But with a new batch of subpoenas, search warrants, and interviews in recent weeks, the public speed of the work has accelerated. According to the persons familiar with the case, Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, Pence’s attorney, recently came before the grand jury in downtown Washington.
The Justice Department’s efforts are distinct from the investigation being conducted by the House committee, which aims to paint Trump as being at fault for starting the Capitol riot and negligent for failing to put an end to it. In their testimony before the committee, Short and Jacob both said that Pence opposed Trump’s efforts to recruit him in the cause.
The House subcommittee lacks the authority to conduct criminal investigations or file charges against anyone, in contrast to the Justice Department.
More than 840 people have been charged with crimes as a result of the Justice Department investigation, which started in the midst of the smoke, blood, and chaos at the Capitol and later expanded to look into other incidents that took place in the days and weeks leading up to the attack, including those at the White House, state capitals, and a hotel in Washington, D.C.
Two sources with knowledge of the issue, who also requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said there are two main lines of inquiry that might ultimately result in more scrutiny of Trump.
The first focuses on seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct a government proceeding, the same charges that have already been brought against those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 and against Stewart Rhodes and Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, two leaders of far-right organizations who did not storm the Capitol but who are allegedly involved in the day’s events’ planning.
The second concerns possible election fraud related to the “false-electors” plot or to pressure that Trump and his associates reportedly used on the Justice Department and others to falsely assert that the election was rigged and ballots were cast fraudulently.
Two Arizona state legislators have recently been served with subpoenas demanding them to turn over communications with “any member, employee, or agent of Donald J. Trump or any organization advocating for the 2020 re-election of Donald J. Trump, including “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” “The Post” has learned.
While refusing to provide anything outside of court papers, Attorney General Merrick Garland has maintained that the Jan. 6 probe would follow the facts wherever they go and that nobody is exempt or above examination.
The Justice Department’s investigation is now primarily focused on the fake-election plan. Republicans in significant states were pushed to submit alternative and illegitimate slates of electors to overturn the outcome of the state vote totals after Trump lost the election by his attorneys and others close to him. Officials from the Trump campaign and Giuliani, who has been credited with supervising the plan and has publicly stated that the opposing slates were essential and acceptable, assisted those would-be electors in their attempt.
A substantial increase in overt investigation activity occurred last month when federal agents spread out across many states to serve grand jury subpoenas, carry out search warrants, and question witnesses. Agents also searched the house of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department employee who passionately supported some of Trump’s last-ditch efforts to prevent Biden from becoming president, and searched Eastman’s personal devices as part of that investigation. Many people who were served with subpoenas were expressly instructed to turn up their correspondence with Giuliani.