- WASHINGTON POST
Trump campaign officials got subpoena asking new questions about Jan. 6
14:28 JST, January 12, 2023
A wide-ranging subpoena sent to Trump campaign officials last month shows new areas of investigative interest as part of the Justice Department’s extensive Jan. 6 criminal probe, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post, and lawyers say a grand jury focused on the day’s events and related fundraising has increased its activities in recent months.
The subpoena was received in early December, according to a former Trump campaign official who provided the document to The Post on the condition of anonymity because a criminal investigation is ongoing. The document seeks more than two dozen categories of information, and includes some questions that were not part of a series of similar subpoenas reviewed by The Post that were sent to several dozen people in September.
One part of the four-page legal document asks recipients to reveal if anyone other than themselves are paying for legal representation – and if so, to provide a copy of the retention agreement for that legal work. At least one other former campaign official also received the subpoena, according to that person’s lawyer, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing attention to his client.
The subpoena seeks any communications or information about Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting technology companies that were subjected to a barrage of false conspiracy theories floated by advisers to President Donald Trump. That request seems designed to gather what campaign officials might have been saying privately at the time Trump backers were publicly disparaging those firms in the wake of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.
The subpoena shows the Justice Department is interested in other Trump entities besides the Save America PAC – which The Post and others reported earlier this year was a subject of inquiry by investigators. It seeks “all documents and communications” related to a panoply of other Trump-affiliated groups, including the Make America Great Again PAC, the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
Recipients are asked to produce documents related to the “formation, funding and/or use of money” of the groups and to show all employment contracts or correspondence with the groups or officials affiliated with them.
Recipients were also asked for documents related to the genesis of an “Election Defense Fund,” an entity that Trump officials created to raise money from grass-roots donors after the election. Officials later testified to the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, that such a fund never technically existed but was a mechanism to generate funds from people who believed and were outraged by Trump’s false election-fraud claims.
The subpoena was signed by an FBI agent in the Washington field office and was part of a flurry of new requests for information issued after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed longtime federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the investigation. The Post reported last month that subpoenas were also received in late November and December by local and state election officials in states that Biden narrowly won and where Trump and his allies claimed there was fraud.
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment. A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately, several lawyers involved in the investigation said the Jan. 6 grand jury had accelerated its activities in recent weeks, bringing in a rapid-fire series of witnesses, both high and low level. Grand jury testimony is secret and is used to determine whether charges should be brought.
Much of what is in the subpoena received Dec. 9 is already known to be under federal investigation – and its wide-ranging request is potentially a sign the probe is far from complete. It asks for detailed information about the fake electors scheme orchestrated by Trump’s team, naming more than 100 of them in seven states that include Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and Michigan.
The subpoena also asks campaign officials to provide any analysis they had done on whether the election was stolen, and whether they shared the analysis with others. It demands documents about the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse, including fundraising and planning, along with coordination with any outside groups about the event.
Dominion was the subject of some of the wildest theories advanced by Trump and his allies in the weeks after the presidential election. Lawyer Sidney Powell and others falsely alleged that the company had ties to Venezuelan communists and its voting machines had been manipulated to flip ballots from Trump to Biden.
The House committee investigating Jan. 6 found that numerous Trump aides privately concluded those allegations had no merit and informed the president of their findings. Nevertheless, Trump tweeted or retweeted about the conspiracy theories more than three dozen times between mid-November and Jan. 6, 2021, and included them in numerous public statements, including his speech to a crowd on the Ellipse on the morning of the Capitol attack.
The Justice Department request for information regarding Dominion, and another company Trump’s allies cited in their accusations, Smartmatic, may indicate prosecutors are gathering evidence that people in Trump’s orbit knew the attacks were false even though the president continued to use them to inflame his base.
A spokeswoman for Dominion, which has filed multibillion dollar defamation lawsuits against Fox News, attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Powell, and others over the accusations, declined to comment on the subpoenas.
Prosecutors’ interest in payments made to lawyers might have been driven by testimony to the House committee from Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as an aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. She told the panel she was initially represented by a lawyer with whom she was connected by figures in Trump’s orbit. But she became uncomfortable, she testified, in part because the lawyer did not reveal to her who was paying his fees and said no formal written retention agreement was needed.
“I was like, ‘I probably should sign an engagement letter.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. We’re not doing that. Don’t worry. We have you taken care of,'” she testified the lawyer said, according to an interview transcript released last month.
After sitting for an initial interview with the panel, Hutchinson testified, the lawyer told her that those paying his fees would not want her to sit for additional interviews unless she was required to do so by a new subpoena.
“‘Trump world will not continue paying your legal bills if you don’t have that second subpoena,'” she recalled him saying – testimony that came in a later interview with the panel, when Hutchinson had hired a different attorney.
The first lawyer, Stefan Passantino, has denied any wrongdoing in his interactions with Hutchinson, saying in a statement last month that he represented the former Trump aide “honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me.”
Hutchinson testified that Passantino counseled her to tell the committee she “did not recall” details of events even when she could, and instructed her not to volunteer details of incidents that might be of interest to the committee. After changing lawyers, she became the committee’s star witness.
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