Probe of 2020 Election Challenges Focuses on Trump Lawyers

From a Wall Street Journal story by C. Ryan Barber and Sadie Gurman headlined “Jack Smith Probe of 2020 Election Challenges Focuses on Trump Lawyers”:

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team in recent weeks has taken a growing interest in the role of lawyers and other figures involved in legal efforts aimed at reversing Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.

Prosecutors from Smith’s team have issued subpoenas and asked questions centered on several key figures in those postelection efforts, including Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer who spread baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. The subpoenas have also requested communications with Emily Newman, a lawyer who worked with Powell, and Mike Roman, a Republican operative who headed Election Day operations for the Trump campaign and dispatched lawyers to swing states before November 2020.

Federal prosecutors also recently interviewed Rudy Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, for roughly eight hours on topics including Powell, people familiar with the testimony said. They were interested, among other things, in a December 2020 meeting in the Oval Office, during which Powell pitched a plan to have the U.S. military seize control of the voting machines.

The meeting erupted into a shouting match between White House lawyers and Powell and her associates, prompting Trump to call Giuliani, who left a dinner in Georgetown to referee the dispute. Giuliani recounted some details of the episode in his testimony before the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Following the meeting, in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, Trump tweeted: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Powell and her defense lawyer didn’t return requests for comment. Giuliani and a spokesman for Smith didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Smith’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election is unfolding as his office prosecutes Trump on separate charges that he retained classified government documents and obstructed efforts to retrieve them.

Giuliani, whose interview was reported earlier by CNN, and others voluntarily spoke with investigators under a so-called proffer agreement, the people said—known colloquially as a “queen for a day” deal—in which a witness provides information to prosecutors, who in turn promise not to use it against them in potential criminal proceedings unless they determine the witness was untruthful.

Roman spoke with prosecutors under a similar agreement for a voluntary interview, a person familiar with the proffer said. In a previous interview with the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Roman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about his interactions with Giuliani following the 2020 election.

Prosecutors have also been asking other witnesses about the involvement of Giuliani and other Trump lawyers, including Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro, people familiar with the matter said.

Ellis, who once described herself as part of an elite strike force representing Trump, was formally disciplined by a judge earlier this year after admitting to falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Powell, too, was sanctioned by a federal judge for widely promoting conspiracy theories that voting machines were hacked by foreign governments or otherwise rigged in now-President Biden’s favor.

Prosecutors questioned Giuliani about the role of another lawyer, John Eastman, who was the architect of strategies to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory and sought to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the certification of the election results. Giuliani and Eastman were central figures in the so-called war room at the Willard hotel in downtown Washington, where some of Trump’s most loyal advisers worked to overturn the 2020 election results.

Smith’s probe has been focused on whether anyone in Trump’s orbit committed crimes by sending fake slates of electors to Congress. The grand jury has issued subpoenas to local officials in several battleground states seeking communication between election officials and Trump, his campaign and a broad group of his allies.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was questioned recently by Smith’s team in Atlanta. Trump in a 2021 phone call pressured Raffensperger to find 12,000 votes so he could reverse Biden’s victory in that state. An official in Raffensperger’s office confirmed the visit and added that one of the people the team asked about was Giuliani.

Prosecutors on Smith’s team have also scrutinized efforts to fundraise off of false claims of election fraud. Like the inquiry in the fake-elector scheme, the focus on fundraising has raised questions about where political activity might be so detached from the truth that it crosses the line from First Amendment-protected speech to potentially criminal conduct.

Cameron McWhirter contributed to this article.

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