The Justice Department is investigating the actions of former President Donald Trump in its criminal investigation on efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to a new report.
Prosecutors have asked witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and other allies in his inner circle — and have often zoomed in on the former president’s alleged scheme to submit fake electors in battleground states won by Biden, the Washington Post reported, citing sources familiar with the investigation.
The DOJ probe — which is separate from the House committee investigation — has focused on those close to Trump in recent months, but the fact that prosecutors have now funneled their efforts onto the actions of Trump himself is a new revelation.
The disclosure intensifies mounting pressure against Trump, whose political clout among devout Republicans has survived two impeachments and former investigations.
The investigators have questioned witnesses for hours on detailed questions about Trump’s insistence that then-Vice President Mike Pence reject the election results as well as Trump’s involvement in the fake electors scheme led by his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, according to the Washington Post.
Prosecutors have also subpoenaed phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, the paper reported, citing two anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
At a minimum, the Justice Department is hoping to gain a clear understanding of what Trump advised his lawyers and senior officials to do in order to change the results of the election in his favor, one source told the publication.
The probe could ultimately charge Trump in two possible ways — on seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct a governmental proceeding or on potential fraud related to the faux electors plan, two people familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post.
The first charge is what individual citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 have often been arrested on.
However, no president has ever been criminally charged in the nation’s history and investigators must walk a fine line between what is deemed political freedom granted by the First Amendment and whether a person’s words could be used as a conspiracy in support of a coup.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, however, has not ruled out prosecuting Trump.
Garland said the Justice Department would “pursue justice without fear or favor” when asked by NBC News’ Lester Holt about prosecuting a former president and possible future candidate for the highest office.