Federal agents searched a former top Justice Department official’s home and seized records from key Republicans in at least five states linked to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, in what were clear signs that authorities are ramping up their investigation of associates of the former president.
Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark, who was known at the Justice Department to champion Mr Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
Agents in recent days also served subpoenas on the Republican Party chairmen of Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, three states that went for President Joe Biden and where Trump allies created slates of “alternate electors” intended to subvert the vote. And Republicans in two other states — Michigan and Pennsylvania — disclosed they had been interviewed by the FBI.
Mr Clark’s home was searched by federal agents shortly before a committee hearing in which he was the focus. Three other former Justice Department officials testified about an extraordinary January 3, 2021, Oval Office meeting at which Mr Trump contemplated naming Mr Clark — who led the department’s civil division — as acting attorney general in place of Jeffrey Rosen, who resisted Mr Trump’s efforts to involve the agency.
Mr Trump relented only when other senior Justice Department officials warned Trump that they would resign if he followed through with his plan to replace Mr Rosen with Mr Clark, a congressional panel heard on Thursday.
A lawyer for Clark did not return an email and phone message from AP seeking comment.
In an interview on Thursday night on Fox News Channel, Mr Clark alleged the timing of the search warrant was “highly politicised” and questioned why his home was searched one day before the congressional hearing.
“It looks highly coincidental and … I just don’t believe in coincidences,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice on Wednesday delivered grand jury subpoenas to two Republican Party officials in Georgia, as well as to Trump campaign aides in Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico.
The Detroit News reported that a group of Michigan Republicans who signed a certificate falsely claiming to cast the state's electoral votes for Republican Mr Trump in December 2020 are receiving grand jury subpoenas from federal officials. The newspaper quoted several sources.
The Justice Department is investigating whether there was a plot to advance alternative slates of fake electors in battleground states with the goal of overturning the election result.
According to one subpoena seen by Reuters that is focused on the phoney slate of electors in Georgia, investigators are seeking copies of documents from October 2020 related to “any effort, plan or attempt to serve as an elector in favour of Donald J Trump and/or (Vice President) Mike R Pence”.
They also are seeking copies of communications between would-be electors and any federal government employees, as well as communications involving Trump allies, including lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.
On Twitter earlier this year, Mr Clark called himself “one of the top targets of the politically motivated J6 committee”.
He is also separately facing investigations by the Justice Department's inspector general, as well as the Washington Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the office that probes attorney misconduct.