This latest round of activity in the Justice Department’s inquiry came amid the House January 6 committee’s high-profile hearings into Trump’s efforts to reverse the outcome of the election.
It also comes less than a month after an earlier round of grand jury subpoenas revealed that prosecutors were seeking information on any role that a group of pro-Trump lawyers might have played in the fake elector effort. Those lawyers included Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn, Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, James Troupis and Justin Clark. Although testimony to the House committee has presented evidence of the roles of some of them in the plan, including Giuliani, Eastman and Chesebro, it is not clear what role, if any, some of the others might have played.
The subpoenas, issued by a grand jury sitting in Washington, have also sought records and information about other pro-Trump figures like Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner and a longtime ally of Giuliani.
Many of the lawyers named in the subpoenas were also mentioned Tuesday at the House select committee’s public hearing exploring Trump’s wide-ranging pressure campaign to persuade state officials to help him stay in office.
At the hearing, the committee for the first time directly connected Trump to the plan, introducing a recorded deposition from Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, in which she recounted how Trump called her and put Eastman on the phone “to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors.”
The first subpoenas in the fake elector inquiry were largely sent to people in key swing states who almost took part in the plan but eventually did not for various reasons. This new round of subpoenas appears to be the first time that Trump campaign officials were brought into the investigation, marking a small but potentially significant step closer to Trump himself.
The plan to create pro-Trump electors in states won by Biden was among the earliest and most expansive of several plots by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the election. It involved lawyers, state officials, White House and campaign aides, and members of Congress.
The plan was developed as Trump and his allies sought to promote baseless assertions of widespread election fraud in key swing states and persuade state officials to reverse their certification of Biden’s victory. It aimed to have the pro-Trump slates in place by the time vice president Mike Pence oversaw the official certification of electoral votes during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.
Trump and others close to him mounted a relentless effort in the weeks leading up to January 6 to persuade Pence either to count the pro-Trump electors and hand Trump a victory in the Electoral College or to declare that the election was uncertain because competing slates of electors had been received in several states.
The idea was to buy Trump more time to pursue his baseless claims of fraud or potentially to send the election to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation would get a single vote. Because more delegations were controlled by Republicans than by Democrats, Trump could have won.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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