WASHINGTON — Federal agents searched the home of a former top Justice Department official and seized files from key Republicans in at least four states linked to Donald Trump’s efforts to void the 2020 election, which were signs clear that the authorities are stepping up their investigation into the associates of the former president.
On Wednesday, authorities searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark, who was known to the Justice Department for defending Trump’s false voter fraud allegations. In recent days, agents have also served subpoenas on Republican Party presidents in Nevada and Georgia, two states that have opted for President Joe Biden and where Trump allies have created lists of “surrogate voters.” intended to overturn the vote. And Republicans in two other states – Michigan and Pennsylvania – revealed they had been questioned by the FBI.
The Justice Department appears to be stepping up its investigation into pro-Trump efforts to void the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly January 6 insurgency. The law enforcement activity disclosures came as the US House committee investigating the riot said it had new evidence of Trump’s efforts and knew he had no legal basis to try to annul the elections.
Thursday’s committee hearing focused on Trump’s desire to install Clark at the top of the Justice Department in the final days of his administration. The reason for the search of Clark’s home in Virginia was not immediately clear, and it was unclear what information officers were looking for. The person who confirmed the search was not authorized to speak by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The committee and federal authorities are studying the use of surrogates for duly chosen voters in seven battleground states who voted for Biden. Trump and his allies have furiously pressured authorities in those states to replace Biden’s voters with voters for him over specious or non-existent allegations that his victory was stolen.
The revelations about the false electoral lists are multiplying. The committee this week leaked text messages showing that an aide to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican and Trump ally, attempted to hand-deliver fake voter votes to an aide to the former deputy. President Mike Pence. The texts show that Pence’s aide refused to accept the votes. Johnson told a conservative radio host in Wisconsin on Thursday that the fake voter rolls came from the office of Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania.
Among those who received subpoenas, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, was Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer.
Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald turned his phone over to federal agents on Wednesday when they approached him outside his car in Las Vegas and presented a warrant, according to another person familiar with the matter. McDonald in December 2020 stood outside the Nevada state capitol with other bogus voters to take a so-called “oath of office,” flanked by men in camouflage gear with semi-automatic rifles.
In Pennsylvania, FBI agents interviewed the Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman at his home on Thursday and served him with a subpoena for communications between him, Trump voters in the state and members of the Trump’s campaign and legal team, party official Sam DeMarco said. the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
DeMarco said in a statement that his conduct as a voter was “open, honest, and based solely on protecting President Trump’s legal rights should he prevail in court. That’s why I’ve agreed to serve as a voter only in the event the president prevails in his legal challenge to the Pennsylvania vote.”
And in Michigan, Michele Lundgren told the Detroit News that someone from the FBI served her with a subpoena on Thursday and another Trump voter was served on Wednesday. Lundgren, 72, said her chat with the officer was “long” and “enjoyable” and she let one of the officers browse her phone and computer.
“They kept asking me questions and asking me questions, and I kept giving them answers,” she said.
Clark’s home was raided by federal agents shortly before a committee hearing in which he was the focus. Three other former Justice Department officials testified about a Jan. 3, 2021, special Oval Office meeting in which Trump considered appointing Clark — who headed the department’s civil division — as acting attorney general in place of Trump. Jeffrey Rosen, who resisted Trump’s efforts to implicate the agency.
Trump relented only when other senior Justice Department officials warned him they would resign if he went ahead with his plan to replace Rosen with Clark.
A lawyer for Clark did not return an email or phone message seeking comment.
Russ Vought, president of the Center for Renewing America, which Clark recently joined as a principal investigator, tweeted that federal officers forced Clark “to the streets” while he was wearing pajamas and “took his devices electronic”.
“All because Jeff saw fit to investigate voter fraud,” Vought continued. “This is not America, folks. The militarization of government must end. Let me be very clear. We stand with Jeff, and so must all patriots in this country.”
The House committee and the Justice Department worked separately but had public friction. The committee initially denied Justice Department requests for access to its transcripts, which include interviews with Trump family members, senior officials and key supporters. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s top aides renewed their request last week in a letter to the committee.
“It is now evident that the interviews conducted by the Select Committee are not only potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced,” they wrote.
Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the committee and called on Garland to investigate Trump, told CNN on Sunday that Congress does not normally turn over all of its investigative records to the Justice Department.
“Traditionally, they don’t expect Congress to do this work for the department,” he said. “So we will work with them. We want them to be successful in bringing people to justice.”
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Sara Burnett in Chicago, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Sam Metz in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Michelle L. Price in New York contributed to this report.
For full coverage of the January 6 hearings, visit https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.
startribune Gt Itly