The Department of Justice is digging deep into its probe of Jan. 6 and has reportedly sent out roughly 40 subpoenas to aides of former President Donald Trump and has seized two phones belonging to his top advisers.
The significant developments were first reported by The New York Times late Monday and cited unnamed sources familiar with the department’s investigation.
Phones were reportedly seized from Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman. Epshteyn serves as Trump’s counsel and was a key figure in the Trump campaign’s push to advance bogus electors in battleground states Trump lost to now President Joe Biden. Roman worked as the Trump campaign’s director of Election Day operations and was in regular contact with Republican members of state legislatures. In its subpoena to Roman in February, the Jan. 6 committee said Roman urged those legislatures to “reclaim” their authority by sending in alternate slates to help Trump on Jan. 6, though the deadline for objections would have long passed by then.
The department’s investigation into Jan. 6 is not simply limited to the violent attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump’s most fervent supporters. It extends to the so-called alternate elector scheme and has increasingly come to focus on the activities of the 45th president’s Save America political action committee.
The PAC became flush with cash in 2020 as Trump told his supporters he needed the funds to mount his legal defense against the “rigged” outcome of the 2020 election. In the course of its own probe, the Jan. 6 committee has alleged that Trump did not use the PAC’s political donations for their intended purpose, and premised that fundraising on an outright lie. For now, it is unclear precisely what angle the Justice Department may be pursuing as it relates to the Save America PAC, but its scrutiny is almost certainly tied to possible fraud.
One of those subpoenaed by the DOJ in this recent batch is Dan Scavino, Trump’s onetime social media director and his current adviser.
Scavino narrowly avoided a contempt of Congress charge this June after a tug of war over ensued between himself and the Jan. 6 committee over his testimony and records. The Department of Justice declined to take up the charge.
Timothy Parlatore, a lawyer who has represented other Trump allies in matters tied to Jan. 6—see: Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano—told The New York Times on Monday that Bernie Kerik was among those recently subpoenaed by the Justice Department.
Parlatore would not elaborate to Daily Kos, but he told other outlets the subpoena for Kerik was overly broad and among the more “obtuse” subpoenas he’s seen.
Kerik is the former commissioner for the New York City Police Department and a close ally to Rudy Giuliani, a leader in Trump’s fake elector scheme.
In its investigation of Jan. 6, members of the select committee sought Kerik out because of his insights into a proposal to seize voting machines and election equipment in battleground states. In the past, Kerik told the press that this proposal was first concocted by U.S. Army Colonel Phil Waldron.
By his own account, Waldron met with Trump nearly a dozen times to discuss ways the campaign could advance its own “electors.” During those interactions, Kerik said the men had discussed the plan to seize voting machines. Trump would float the idea to his advisers in the White House in late December 2020, but it never got off the ground.
A subpoena for Kerik’s testimony is not altogether unsurprising if investigators are sniffing around Trump’s finances.
The former police commissioner once told The Washington Post his firm had billed Trump’s campaign just over $50,000 for a series of hotel rooms he helped arrange for Trump’s legal team at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Kerik said, too, that he billed another $10,000 for travel expenses. He told reporters that he was reimbursed.
The rooms at the Willard Hotel were a command hub where Trump’s allies, advisers, and attorneys, like John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, and Steve Bannon, would convene to discuss the elector gambit and the related pressure strategy targeting former Vice President Mike Pence to go along with objections to the election’s certification by Congress on Jan. 6.
Kerik has insisted that he did not attend a Jan. 5, 2021, meeting at the Willard.
Trump pardoned Kerik in 2020 after Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to eight felony charges. Those charges included failure to pay taxes as well as lying to White House officials during a doomed nomination hearing to serve as the nation’s Department of Homeland Security. Kerik’s nomination was put forward by former President George W. Bush.
Further details about who received a demand in this latest batch of subpoenas are being kept closely under wraps.
The Justice Department’s probes of Jan. 6 have been moving at a steady clip for some time now, with evidence collected via grand jury testimonies delivered in secret (per the tradition of grand juries) by key figures like Stop the Steal movement founder Ali Alexander, and others like former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Cipollone’s deputy, Patrick Philbin. Last week, William Russell, a personal aide to Trump, was also subpoenaed, though the cause for his subpoena was unclear.
Parlatore contacted Daily Kos after publication.
He elaborated further on the subpoena, saying it was “politically motivated” and “timed for the midterms.” He also said Bernie Kerik would respond to the subpoena from the Department of Justice. Parlatore also accused the DOJ of “acting weird” and suggested that the subpoena was not rooted in a “legitimate criminal investigation.”
Since Parlatore is not making the subpoena public and declined a request by Daily Kos to review it, his opinion about the nature of the subpoena or the intent of the Justice Department should be weighed extremely critically.