Special counsel Jack Smith appears to be turning up the heat on former President Donald Trump. This time he is focused on supporters of the former president who allegedly attempted to “overturn” the 2020 election.
CNN reports that Smith has given immunity to “at least two” Republicans who planned to be “fake electors” on January 6, 2021, when the Senate met to officially count the Electoral College.
The testimony, described to CNN by people familiar with the situation, comes after a year of relative dormancy around the fake electors portion of the investigation and as a parade of related witnesses are being told to appear before the grand jury with no chance for delay.
That activity could signal that investigators are nearing at least some charging decisions in a part of the 2020 election probe, sources added. It also comes just as the special counsel’s office filed charges against former President Donald Trump for his handling of classified documents.
Prosecutors initially obtained documents and interviews last spring from many of the Republicans who signed false certificates to the federal government, asserting they were the rightful electors for Trump in seven battleground states won by Joe Biden.
Prosecutors have played hardball with some of the witnesses in recent weeks, refusing to grant extensions to grand jury subpoenas for testimony and demanding they comply before the end of this month, sources said. In the situations where prosecutors have given witnesses immunity, the special counsel’s office arrived at the courthouse in Washington ready to compel their testimony after the witnesses indicated they would decline to answer questions under the Fifth Amendment, the sources added.
Federal prosecutors have been investigating multiple avenues in which Trump and his allies allegedly endeavored to overturn his loss to Joe Biden 2020. The most brazen and, quite frankly, bizarre plot included subverting the Electoral College itself by having Vice President Mike Pence count “alternative electors” rather than those officially sent to the College following the election.
The New York Times explained the plan: “The scheme had a vague historical precedent and was rooted, at least in theory, in a post-Reconstruction Era law designed to address how to handle disputed elections. But it was deemed illegal by Mr. Trump’s own White House Counsel’s Office. Even some of the lawyers who helped come up with the idea referred to it as fake and acknowledged that it was of dubious legality, according to a cache of email messages brought to light by The New York Times.
The Trump plan began with an effort to persuade Republican officials in the targeted states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to help draft, or to put their names on, documents that declared Mr. Trump to be the victor.
That effort was largely led by lawyers close to Mr. Trump, like Rudolph W. Giuliani and John Eastman, who sometimes communicated directly with local points of contact in the state, or by lawyers who worked in the states themselves and dealt with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Eastman or with Mr. Trump’s campaign aides.
Their stated rationale was that Mr. Biden’s victories in those states would be overturned once they could establish their claims of widespread voting fraud and other irregularities, and that it was only prudent to have the “alternate” slates of electors in place for that eventuality.
But, as Mr. Trump had been told by his campaign aides and eventually even his attorney general, there were no legitimate claims of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the race, and the seven states all certified Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory on Dec. 14, 2020. Mr. Trump and his allies barreled ahead with the electors plan nonetheless, with an increasing focus on using the ceremonial congressional certification process on Jan. 6 to derail the transfer of power.
In the end, several Mr. Trump’s supporters from different states submitted fake lists of electors, firmly asserting that Mr. Trump had won. However, in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, the officials who created those documents added a condition stating that they should only be taken into account if Mr. Trump succeeded in his numerous lawsuits challenging the election and was declared the legal winner. The former president and his allies filed and lost at least 63 lawsuits.
On January 6, Vice President Pence refused to do the president’s bidding, announcing to the Senate in a letter that “our Founders were deeply skeptical of concentrations of power and created a Republic based on separation of powers and checks and balances under the Constitution of the United States.
Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design.”
Rolling Stone has speculated that the special counsel may be focusing on various Trump allies rather than the top dog himself, writing, “Smith’s office has also honed in on various key Trump allies in recent weeks, including his former attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, as well as Jefferey Clark. Clark, a Trump DOJ appointee, pressured the department to falsely inform the Georgia legislature that they had uncovered ‘significant fraud’ in the state and encourage them to put forth an alternate slate of electors.
It’s unclear if Trump will be indicted in the probe, but if he is it would be the second time Smith brings criminal charges against the former president. Earlier this month, Trump was arrested and arraigned on 37 federal charges related to his post-presidency hoarding of classified documents. The charges against Trump include conspiracy to obstruct justice, corruptly concealing a record or document, and concealing a document in a federal investigation.
Trump may also face charges from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is widely expected to reveal an indictment in her own investigation into election interference in Georgia sometime this August.”