The Justice Department has issued subpoenas across multiple states to Republican politicians involved in the scheme to use fake electors as a means of disrupting the outcome of the election. Included in the subpoenas are a number of people who signed certificates claiming to be “duly elected and qualified electors.” Since these certificates surfaced, it has seemed clear they are direct physical evidence of a conspiracy to subvert democracy, and now it seems the FBI agrees.
As Brandi Buchman reported, on Tuesday the House select committee gave their first public hearing on this aspect of Trump’s attempt to destroy the electoral process. The FBI appears to be following closely on the committee’s heels, issuing a series of grand jury subpoenas that show the Justice Department is investigating these false electors for potential crimes.
As The Washington Post reports, agents involved in delivering the subpoenas described them as “court-authorized law enforcement activity.” This represents a significant expansion of Justice Department activity related to Jan. 6 and points to the possibility of wide-ranging charges of seditious conspiracy against the United States.
FBI actions on Wednesday apparently extended to other members of the cabal — including would-be attorney general Jeffrey Clark. Clark’s scheme to use the DOJ to lend legitimacy to the Jan. 6 conspiracy is still another thread that needs to be pulled.
Those known to have received subpoenas so far include:
- David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who signed a certificate as a false elector from that state.
- Brad Carver, a lawyer who also signed on as a false elector in Georgia.
- Thomas Lane, who worked for the Trump campaign in both Arizona and New Mexico, and who now works for the Republican National Committee.
- Unidentified false electors in Michigan.
In addition, KLAS in Las Vegas reports that the FBI has issued search warrants related to this conspiracy to:
- Michael McDonald, Republican Party chair, whose cell phone was collected as the warrants were distributed.
- James DeGraffenreid, Nevada State Republican Party secretary (who apparently could not be located on Wednesday).
It seems likely that these subpoenas have gone out to all seven states where the Republican Party attempted to promote slates of false electors as “official” representatives of the state.
Creating false electors was integral to the way in which Donald Trump and attorney John Eastman hoped to create a fictitious crisis on Jan. 6. The need for these false electors was debated at a meeting of Trump’s White House attorneys, where Eastman explained how it could be used as an excuse for Pence to set aside votes in multiple states. The scheme was later repeated in the memos that Eastman distributed describing the “January 6 scenario.”
After that meeting, Republicans in seven states prepared false certificates to support the scheme, sending these documents to the National Archives. A number of congressional Republicans attended a presentation during which they were instructed on how and when and how they should disrupt proceedings on Jan. 6 so that these slates of false electors and false certificates could be presented.
Since the pretense that these electors were “official” was integral the scheme, Republicans made little effort to hide this effort. Among others, the Nevada Republican Party heavily publicized the slate of false electors, publishing photos and sending out announcements as they signed a certificate that reads in part, “We, the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America from the State of Nevada, do hereby certify six electoral votes for Trump.”
President Joe Biden won Nevada by more than 2%—over 33,500 votes—far outside the range of any required recount or conceivable error. Both Trump and state GOP officials launched lawsuits, all of which failed. That didn’t stop them from joining the pretense that Trump had won and sending false documents to Congress and the National Archives.
It’s been clear that the Justice Department was interested in the false elector scheme for some time. Subpoenas have previously been sent seeking interviews with at least 15 people who had refused to participate in these schemes. These subpoenas seem to have been intended to gather broad information about the scheme.
Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, have stated on multiple occasions that the department is conducting its own investigation unconnected to that of the House select committee. However, since these investigations are taking place in parallel, it seems very likely that both sides are being careful not to create conflict, which may explain why the FBI didn’t serve up subpoenas related to false electors until after the first public hearing on that topic.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.