The Justice Department's ongoing criminal probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election has a new apparent line of focus, at least according to four Washington Post sources: former President Trump. Some of those sources tell the Post that while questioning witnesses before a federal grand jury, prosecutors have lately started asking about those witnesses' conversations and experiences with Trump: meetings he helmed in December 2020 and January 2021 and their knowledge of what he told Mike Pence, his advisers, senior officials, and outside lawyers (including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani) to do. "The degree of prosecutors' interest in Trump's actions has not been previously reported," notes the Post. More:
- Don't jump to conclusions. This from the Post: "Federal criminal investigations are by design opaque, and probes involving political figures are among the most closely held secrets at the Justice Department. Many end without criminal charges."
- Echoing that. NBC News spoke with a source of its own who confirmed the DOJ is looking into Trump's moves but made clear Trump himself is not the subject of a criminal investigation.
- An indication of where the DOJ was going. CNN reports we already had an indication that the DOJ investigation had gone inside the Trump administration to look at the moves made by Trump and his allies regarding the election results. That signal? The DOJ's decision to question two top Pence aides (former chief of staff Marc Short and former counsel Greg Jacob) in front of a grand jury.
- Context for that. CNN's view: "Any investigation of a former president raises a host of highly sensitive and potentially explosive political and legal questions. That Pence's inner circle is now being compelled to cooperate in the probe suggests that at least some of those obstacles have been cleared."
- The interplay with the Jan. 6 panel. The House panel investigating the events of Jan. 6 doesn't have the authority to charge anyone, and the Hill points out that one aim of the committee's public hearings is to present evidence that Trump committed a crime and prosecution might be warranted. "As the panel plans a break from public hearings over August, observers are focused on the DOJ and whether it will find the committee’s evidence against Trump persuasive enough to bring charges," the Hill notes.
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