Conduct of Trump, talks a part of Justice Division investigation

The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its 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 of Vice President Mike Pence’s top aides — have in recent days asked about talks with Trump, his attorneys and others in his inner circle trying to sell Trump allies through certified voters of Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors spent hours asking detailed questions about meetings Trump chaired in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overthrow the election; and what directions Trump gave his attorneys and advisers about fake voters and sending voters back to the states, people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the electoral rigging effort led by his outside attorneys, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.

Additionally, in April, Justice Department investigators received phone recordings from key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. These efforts are another indicator of how broad the Jan. 6 investigation had become, well ahead of the high-profile, televised House hearings in June and July on the issue.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol built its case over a series of eight public hearings. That’s how they did it. (Video: Blair Guild/Washington Post)

The Washington Post and other news organizations have previously written that the Justice Department is investigating the behavior of Eastman, Giuliani and others in Trump’s orbit. But the extent of prosecutors’ interest in Trump’s actions has not been previously reported, nor has the review of phone records of senior Trump aides.

A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesman and an attorney for Meadows declined to comment.

Trump did not want to call for prosecution of rioters on Jan. 6, new video shows

The revelations raise the stakes in an already politically tense investigation involving a former president who is still central to the fate of his party and has survived previous investigations and two impeachments. Long before the Jan. 6 investigation, Trump had railed against the Justice Department and the FBI for years; the investigation approaching it will probably reinforce this antagonism.

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

In trying to understand how and why Trump partisans and lawyers tried to change the outcome of the election, a person familiar with the investigation said investigators also wanted to at least understand what Trump was telling his lawyers and senior officials to do. Any investigation related to attempting to reverse the election results must address complex issues of First Amendment protected political activity and when or if a person’s speech could become part of an alleged conspiracy to support a coup d’état.

Many elements of the January 6 sweeping criminal investigation have remained classified. 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. Both men declined to comment.

The Justice Department’s effort is separate from the ongoing investigation by the House Committee, which has sought to frame Trump as responsible for instigating the Capitol riots and for his dereliction of duty by refusing to stop it. Both Short and Jacob testified before the committee, telling lawmakers that Pence resisted Trump’s attempts to win him over to the cause.

Unlike the Justice Department, the House of Representatives has no power to initiate criminal investigations or charge anyone with wrongdoing.

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

The Justice Department investigation began amid smoke, blood and chaos in the Capitol and has resulted in criminal charges against more than 840 people, which have extended to an investigation into events that took place elsewhere – including in the days and weeks before the attack White House, State Capitols and a hotel in DC.

There are two main leads in the investigation that could ultimately lead to an additional investigation into Trump, said two people familiar with the situation, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The first focuses on seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct government proceedings, the type of charges already filed 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 breach the Capitol but were reportedly involved in planning the day’s events.

The second concerns potential fraud related to the rigged election plan, or pressure Trump and his allies allegedly put on the Justice Department and others to falsely claim that the election was rigged and the votes cast fraudulently .

Recent subpoenas obtained by The Post show that two Arizona state legislators have been ordered to stop communications with “any member, employee or agent of Donald J. Trump or any organization working towards the 2020 re-election of Donald J. Trump.” , including “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” ”

In the country’s history, no former president has ever been charged with a crime. In cases where investigators found evidence suggesting a president engaged in criminal behavior, as with Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, investigators and subsequent administrations concluded that granting immunity was better or to refrain from prosecution. One goal was to avoid the appearance of using governmental force to punish political enemies and to safeguard the tradition of peaceful transfer of power.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed the Jan. 6 inquest will follow the facts wherever they lead and said no one is exempt or above scrutiny while refusing to divulge any information outside of court filings.

Garland told NBC News in an interview Tuesday that the department pursues justice “without fear or favor.” We intend to hold everyone, everyone criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6, accountable for any attempt to disrupt the legitimate transfer of power from one administration to another – we are doing so. We do not pay attention to other topics in this regard.”

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The Jan. 6 investigation is in some respects the largest ever conducted by the Justice Department. While investigators have been involved in almost every part of the country, the lion’s share of the work is done by three offices: the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia and the crime and national security divisions in the department’s main branch.

In the first year of the investigation, prosecutors focused mostly on the people who raided the Capitol, some violently, and accused hundreds of interfering with or assaulting police or obstructing an official process.

This year, the bogus manifesto has become a major focus of the Justice Department’s investigation. After Trump lost the election, attorneys and others close to him urged GOP officials in key states to produce alternative and illegitimate voter rolls to reject state vote count results. These prospective voters were aided in their efforts by Trump campaign officials and Giuliani, who publicly said the rival lists were necessary and appropriate and were described as overseers of the strategy.

Jeffrey Clark was taken onto the street in his pajamas while federal agents searched his home

In the last month, federal agents have swarmed across several states to serve grand jury subpoenas, execute search warrants and interview witnesses – a significant escalation of overt investigative activity. As part of that effort, agents searched Eastman’s electronic devices and conducted a search of the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who enthusiastically applauded some of Trump’s last-ditch efforts to prevent Biden from becoming president. Many of those who received subpoenas were specifically asked to turn off their communications with Giuliani.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is also a key player in the investigation, as he investigates Clark’s role as a Department official in allegedly promoting the effort.

In a call on Dec. 27, 2020, witnesses said Trump told acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen he wanted his Justice Department to say there had been significant voter fraud and said he was willing to oust Rosen and replace it with Clark to replace who was willing to make that claim.

Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department could not “flip a switch and change the election,” according to transcripts 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 told Rosen to “just hold a press conference.” Rosen refused. “We don’t see that,” he told Trump. “We will not hold a press conference.”

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

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