The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol now includes questions to witnesses about the communications of people close to then-President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign, CBS News has confirmed.
This news, first reported by The Washington Post, was confirmed to CBS News by a US official familiar with the investigation and a source with knowledge of what the Justice Department has presented to a grand jury.
It is not clear that Trump himself is a target of the investigation, only that prosecutors are asking questions related to him and his aides
Part of the investigation concerns the effort to replace voters won by Joe Biden in several battleground states with fake voters who supported Trump. Another examines the actions around Jan. 6, when thousands of Trump supporters, many armed, overwhelmed the Capitol on the day Congress was supposed to count the ballots and confirm Biden’s 2020 victory.
According to the source close to the grand jury witnesses, among the topics of interest to federal prosecutors are Trump’s discussions with law professor John Eastman, who came up with the plan to try to implicate Vice President Mike Pence in trying to keep Trump in power, and the pressure on Pence who presided the counting of electoral votes on January 6.
The news follows several actions by law enforcement agencies targeting those allegedly connected to Trump’s bid to stay in power — including the seizure of Eastman’s phone and the recent raid of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark’s Virginia home. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, testified before a grand jury in Washington, DC last week under subpoena as part of the investigation, a person familiar with the investigation confirmed to CBS News.
The Post’s report on the Justice Department’s investigation was published Tuesday, hours after the former president returned to Washington, DC, for the first time since he left at the end of his presidency, in late January 2021.
“I always say I ran the second time and did much better,”said at an event at the America First Policy Institute. “And you know what, it’ll be a story for a long time. What a shame it was. But you know what, we might have to do it again.”
Thathas examined these matters separately in a series of eight public hearings. Among the information that has come to light is testimony from GOP Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers about a plan Trump and his allies have launched to replace Arizona Biden voters with fake Trump voters. Bowers refused to participate in the plot despite the pressure put on him by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The committee has also uncovered an attempt to deliver fake ballots in Wisconsin to Vice President Mike Pence on January 6. Pence, urged by Trump and his allies to reject ballots from battleground states won by Mr. Biden, also refused to participate in the arrangement.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has spoken only broadly about the investigation, repeating in an interview on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” Tuesday that the Justice Department has “moved urgently to learn everything we can about this period and to put all on trial. who was criminally responsible for interfering with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.”
He gave no indication that Trump, a former president, would receive any special consideration given that status and the possibility that he could run again.
“We pursue justice without fear or favor,” Garland replied. “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events around January 6, for any attempt to interfere with the legal transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable, that’s what we’re doing. We are not paying any attention to other issues regarding it.”
Robert Legare contributed to this report.