Trump efforts to create fake electors probed by US prosecutors

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is using a grand jury in Washington to investigate efforts by former President Donald Trump and his inner circle to create false electors and pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, the former vice president’s chief counsel, appeared before the grand jury in recent days where they were asked by federal prosecutors about conversations they had with Trump and his allies about efforts to create and submit false elector certificates from some states Joe Biden won, according to the person, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.

The nature of the questions posed to grand jury witnesses by prosecutors, earlier reported by the Washington Post, is one of the clearest signs to date the Justice Department’s investigation has expanded beyond those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to focus on actions taken by Trump and his allies in the days and weeks after the 2020 election.

Criminally charging a former president would be unprecedented, but an investigation by the Jan. 6 committee has laid out evidence for a number of potential charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. A California judge said earlier this year, it was more likely than not that Trump and lawyer John Eastman committed those crimes.

If Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to bring charges, he will want his prosecutors to pursue a straightforward case that can withstand the scrutiny of court proceedings and appeals, which may be the scheme to create false electors, former law enforcement officials said.

In an interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News Tuesday, Garland was asked whether the Justice Department would indict Trump if the evidence supported such an action. “We will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” Garland responded.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, the Justice Department and Short’s attorney all declined to comment. A Trump spokesman didn’t immediately return a message left for comment.

Justice Department investigators also received phone records in April of Trump administration officials, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the Washington Post reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Jan. 6 Committee said he wasn’t aware of the Justice Department notifying the committee about the investigation into Trump’s actions.

“I read that and felt a wave of relief,” he said of the Washington Post article.