The Department of Justice is investigating former President Donald Trump and his efforts to remain in office after he lost the 2020 election, with prosecutors asking witnesses detailed questions about his behavior and meetings he held to overturn the election, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The report, citing people familiar with the DOJ’s inquiry, said prosecutors have asked detailed questions about meetings held by Trump in December 2020 and January 2021, after his November election loss, as well as what instruction he gave his attorneys as they worked on a plan to use slates of fake electors rather than those won by Joe Biden.
They have also asked about Trump’s efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the results of the 2020 race. Pence didn’t go along with that plan, which relied heavily on the vice president making false claims that there were issues with the electoral votes that states had certified for Biden.
The report reflects the growing scope of the agency’s investigation into the events leading up to and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence have spoken to a grand jury convened by the Justice Department in recent days. Marc Short, who served for nearly two years as Pence’s chief of staff, said Monday he spoke to the body after being issued a subpoena. He was a key witness to the final days of the Trump administration and was in the Oval Office on Jan. 4, 2021, when Trump had lawyer John Eastman try to persuade Pence to delay the certification of the Electoral College vote. The grand jury also spoke to Short’s deputy, Greg Jacob.
The two are the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration to cooperate in the investigation so far.
The Post added that Justice Department prosecutors have reviewed the phone records of senior Trump aides, including those of the president’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. The detail builds on a spate of subpoenas issued in recent weeks, including reports that federal agents had seized Eastman’s electronic devices and conducted a search at the home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.
The DOJ probe could pose renewed legal peril for Trump, as the agency has the power to levy criminal charges against him or others in his orbit. The ongoing investigation by the House select committee into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack — a separate effort — does not have the power to charge anyone with wrongdoing but has used a series of public hearings to show the extent of the White House’s role in inciting the riot and Trump’s failure to stop it.
No former U.S. president has been charged with a crime, despite sweeping investigations into misbehavior.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, however, said Tuesday that the Justice Department planned to prosecute anyone “criminally responsible for interfering with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.”
“We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable,” Garland told NBC News. “That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”