Any doubt that the Justice Department expects to indict high-ranking Trump associates, and perhaps the defeated ex-president himself, for January 6-related crimes has been eliminated. Acting just before the informal rule that the DOJ should not do anything to influence an election 60 days before election day, a reported 30 individuals received approximately 40 subpoenas. The subpoenas are believed to seek evidence relevant to the Justice Department’s long-running investigation of the January 6 Trump insurrection.
Full details on who received subpoenas are forthcoming. But we already know that Trump 2020 campaign officials, including his campaign manager, Bill Stepien and senior White House advisors, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller, and Brian Jack are among those who received them. Also receiving a subpoena was Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who evolved into a major Trump defender, claiming the 2020 election was fraudulent. Other subpoenas were sent to Boris Epshteyn, an advisor to the 2020 campaign, and Mike Roman, a participant in the effort to create alternative slates of 2020 presidential electors.
If preliminary reports, including comments by Mr. Kerik’s attorney, are accurate, the subpoenas cast a broad net. It appears that information is sought not only about the organization and execution of an effort to create alternative slates of electors in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia, but also about Trump’s Save America PAC and its expenditures.
Questions relating to the use of campaign funds may include whether any were used to support the January 6 insurrection, including paying for the transportation and housing of rioters. Other questions may relate to what communications Trump associates may have had with January 6 rioters.
DOJ has not yet released a list of who received subpoenas. It is doubtful it will, in part because Republicans (with some justification) will attack the timing of the issuance of subpoenas. While the subpoenas may have been issued 60 days before election day, November 8, news about the subpoenas, especially the considerable number of individuals receiving them and their subject matter, will arguably help Democrats in the midterm elections.
Was the Department of Justice right to issue these subpoenas? Yes, but the timing could have been better. The timing will especially be problematic if subpoenas were issued to sitting members of Congress who face re-election this fall. Accusations of involvement in the insurrection have been made against Lauren Boebert (R-CO), right-wing dentist Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and others. Our own Representative Andy Harris attended a White House meeting on December 19, 2021, with several of the usual suspects. If Harris received a subpoena, will he let the voters of the First District know? I would not count on it.
News of the subpoenas comes as a new book, Holding the Line, by Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, hits the bookstores. Berman claims that Donald Trump, acting through then-Attorney General Bill Barr, attempted to encourage prosecutions of Trump’s political enemies to help his 2020 campaign. Berman refused and got fired in June 2020.
Over the weekend, pictures also circulated of several large document boxes being loaded onto a private Trump plane headed to Northern Virginia, where Trump has another of his golf clubs. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has suggested that the FBI needs to search every Trump residence. That may not happen due to the informal “60-day rule,” but perhaps it should. The walls are closing in on Trump. The scent of accountability is in the air.
Ronald Reagan once said, “If not now, when?” That is not a bad question to ask Attorney General Garland. Justice delayed is justice denied. Should we assume that Garland got that memo?
Stand by. This story is not over.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.