Dozens of subpoenas issued last week show that the Justice Department is seeking vast amounts of information, and communications with more than 100 people, as part of its sprawling inquiry into the origins, fundraising, and motives of the effort to block Joe Biden from being certified as president in early 2021.
The subpoenas, three of which were reviewed by The Washington Post, are far-reaching, covering 18 separate categories of information, including any communications the recipients had with scores of people in six states where pro-Trump activists sought to promote ‘’alternate’' electors to replace electors in those states won by Biden.
One request is for any communications ‘’to, from, or including’' specific people tied to such efforts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Most of the names listed were proposed fake electors in those states, while a small number were Trump campaign officials who organized the slates.
Taken together, the subpoenas show an investigation that began immediately after the storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and has cast an ever-widening net, even as it gathers information about those in the former president’s inner circle.
‘’It looks like a multipronged fraud and obstruction investigation,’’ said Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutor. ‘’It strikes me that they’re going after a very, very large group of people, and my guess is they are going to make all of the charging decisions toward the end.’’
After being told the various categories of information sought in the indictment, Walden noted the focus on wide categories of communications among the individuals. He said he suspected it was part of a prosecutorial strategy to try to blunt any claims that Trump activists were just following the advice of lawyers in seeking to block the certification of Biden’s victory.
‘’It’s hard to say you were just relying on all these lawyers if there are text chains showing conspirator conversations, or consciousness of guilt,’’ Walden said.
A subpoena is not proof or even evidence of wrongdoing, but rather a demand for information that could produce evidence of criminal conduct. The new batch of subpoenas point to three main areas of Justice Department interest, distinct but related:
- The effort to replace valid Biden electors with unearned, pro-Trump electors before the formal congressional tally of the 2020 election outcome on Jan. 6, 2021
- The rally that preceded the riot that day
- The fundraising and spending of the Save America political action committee, an entity that raised more than $100 million in the wake of the 2020 election, largely based on appeals to mount pro-Trump legal challenges to election results.
Even those three prongs don’t capture other important parts of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation, in which more than 870 people have been arrested for alleged crimes of violence, trespass and — in the case of two extremist groups who prosecutors say played key roles in the chaos — seditious conspiracy. Hundreds more are still being sought for crimes related to the riot.
The Justice Department inspector general is investigating a former senior Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, for possible conspiracy, false statements, and obstruction, according to a new letter filed in his bar disciplinary case. According to e-mails and public testimony, Clark tried to get the Justice Department to publicly express doubts about the election results, even going so far as to be willing to take over the department from his then-boss, Jeffrey Rosen, to do so. He has denied wrongdoing.
In another sign that the Justice Department’s own role in 2020 is also part of the ever-growing investigation, the recent subpoenas seek any communications with ‘’any member, employee, or agent of the United States Department of Justice, or any component, branch, litigating unit, or office’' of the agency.
Some of the people who have received subpoenas said there was no way to comply within the two-week time frame, because there were so many categories of information and so many things to review, and some of the recipients don’t even have lawyers yet. It is not uncommon for recipients of subpoenas to seek and receive more time to produce all the requested information.
Two Trump advisers said more than 30 people received subpoenas in the probe, including some who were low-level administrative staff. Trump’s team is arranging lawyers for at least some of the aides under subpoena, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.
Trump himself has not received a subpoena, according to a person close to him, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.
The burst of subpoenas comes about two months after a similar flurry in mid-June, which sought communications with dozens of individuals, including Trump lawyers and advocates such as Rudy Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, and others.