Trump conduct, conversations part of Justice Department investigation

The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of his criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have been asking questions in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in his inner circle who sought to replace the Trump allies by certified voters of some claims Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors asked hours of detailed questions about Trump-led meetings in December 2020 and January 2021; his campaign to pressure Pence to void the election; and what instructions Trump gave his attorneys and advisers about bogus voters and voter removal in states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the fake voter effort spearheaded by his outside attorneys, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.

In addition, Justice Department investigators in April received phone records from top Trump administration officials and aides, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. This effort is another indicator of the scope of the January 6 investigation, well ahead of the high-profile June and July television hearings on the subject.

The Washington Post and other news agencies have previously wrote that the Justice Department is looking into the conduct of Eastman, Giuliani and others in Trump’s orbit. But prosecutors’ level of interest in Trump’s actions has not previously been reported, nor has the review of phone records of Trump’s top aides.

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesperson and a lawyer for Meadows both declined to comment.

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The revelations raise the stakes in an already politically tense investigation involving a former president, still at the heart of his party’s fortunes, who survived previous investigations and two dismissals. Long before the Jan. 6 investigation, Trump spent years railing against the Justice Department and the FBI; the investigation approaching him will likely intensify this antagonism.

Federal criminal investigations are inherently opaque, and investigations involving political figures are among the Justice Department’s best-kept secrets. Many end up without criminal charges. The lack of observable investigative activity involving Trump and his White House for more than a year following the Jan. 6 attack has fueled criticism, particularly from the left, that the Justice Department is not prosecuting the case. deal with enough aggression.

In trying to understand how and why Trump supporters and lawyers sought to change the election result, a person familiar with the investigation said, investigators also want to understand, at a minimum, what Trump told his lawyers. and senior officials to do. Any investigation surrounding the effort to nullify the election results must navigate complex issues of political activity protected by the First Amendment and when or if a person’s speech could be part of an alleged conspiracy to support the election. ‘a coup.

Many elements of the sprawling January 6 criminal investigation have remained secret. But in recent weeks, the public pace of work has picked up, with a fresh round of subpoenas, search warrants and interviews. Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and attorney, Greg Jacob, appeared before the grand jury in downtown Washington in recent days, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The Justice Department’s efforts are separate from the ongoing investigation by the House committee, which has sought to hold Trump accountable for inciting the Capitol riot and dereliction of duty for refused to stop him. Both Short and Jacob testified before the committee, telling lawmakers that Pence had resisted Trump’s attempts to enlist him in the cause.

Unlike the Justice Department, the House panel does not have the power to launch criminal investigations or accuse anyone of wrongdoing.

More than 840 suspects have been charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot

The Justice Department investigation began amid smoke, blood and mayhem on Capitol Hill and led to criminal charges against more than 840 people, expanding to include a review of events elsewhere in the days and the weeks preceding the attack.including at the White House, state capitols, and a DC hotel.

There are two main leads in the investigation that could ultimately lead to a closer look at Trump, said two people familiar with the situation, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The first deals with seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct government process, the type of charges already leveled against individuals who stormed the Capitol on January 6 and against two leaders of far-right groups , Stewart Rhodes and Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who did not violate the Capitol but were allegedly involved in planning the day’s events.

The second involves potential fraud associated with the bogus voter scheme or the pressure Trump and his allies allegedly exerted on the Justice Department and others to falsely claim that the election was rigged and the votes were fraudulently expressed.

Recent subpoenas obtained by The Post show that two Arizona state lawmakers were ordered to turn over communications with “any member, employee or agent of Donald J. Trump or any organization advocating for Donald J. Trump’s 2020 re-election, including “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.””

No former president has ever been charged with a crime in the country’s history. In cases where investigators have found evidence to suggest a president engaged in criminal conduct, such as with Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, investigators and successive administrations have concluded that it is best to award the immunity or waive prosecution. One of the goals was to avoid the appearance of using government power to punish political enemies and to ensure the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

Attorney General Merrick Garland promised that the January 6 inquest would follow the facts wherever they lead and said that no one is exempt or above scrutiny while refusing to disclose information outside of court documents.

Garland told NBC News in an interview Tuesday that the department is pursuing justice “without fear or favor.” We intend to hold accountable all those who were criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6, for any attempt to interfere with the legal transfer of power from one administration to another – we do . We pay no attention to other issues in this regard.

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The January 6 investigation is, in some ways, the most extensive ever undertaken by the Department of Justice. While investigators in nearly every region of the country have been involved, the lion’s share of the work is done by three offices: the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia and the Criminal and National Security Divisions at department headquarters.

In the first year of the investigation, prosecutors focused largely on people who violated the Capitol, some of them violently, charging hundreds of people with interfering with or assaulting police or for obstructing an official process.

This year, the bogus voter scheme has become a major focus of the Justice Department’s investigation. After Trump lost the election, lawyers and others close to him urged GOP officials in key states to submit alternative and illegitimate voter lists to dismiss the results of state vote totals. Those would-be voters were aided in their efforts by campaign officials Trump and Giuliani, who publicly said the rival slates were necessary and appropriate, and were described as overseeing the strategy.

Jeffrey Clark taken to the streets in his pajamas while federal agents searched his home

Last month, federal agents deployed to multiple states serving grand jury subpoenas, executing search warrants and interviewing witnesses — a significant escalation in evident investigative activity. As part of the effort, officers searched Eastman’s electronics and raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who has enthusiastically welcomed some of Trump’s latest efforts to thwart Biden. to become president. Many of those who received subpoenas were specifically asked to turn over their communications with Giuliani.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is also an important player in the investigation, as he examines Clark’s role as a departmental official in the alleged pursuit of the effort.

In a Dec. 27, 2020, call, witnesses said Trump told Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that he wanted his Justice Department to say there was significant voter fraud and said that he was about to oust Rosen and replace him with Clark, who was willing to make that claim.

Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department could not “flip a switch and alter the election,” according to notes of the conversation cited by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I don’t expect you to do that,” Trump replied, according to the notes. “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”

The president urged Rosen to “just hold a press conference.” Rosen refused. “We don’t see that,” he told Trump. “We are not going to hold a press conference.

Jacqueline Alemany and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.


Washington

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