Justice Department subpoenas dozens of Trump aides in apparent escalation of investigation, according to reports

The investigation of Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election and the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, is separate from the seizure of documents from Mar-a-Lago.

Bart Jansen
  • The Justice Department subpoenaed dozens of Trump aides and seized at least two phones.
  • Some subpoenas sought information from people who challenged the 2020 election results.
  • Some subpoenas focused on Trump fundraisers and organizers of his rally before the Capitol riot.

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department issued dozens of subpoenas to Donald Trump’s aides and associates for information about the 2020 election and the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, according to The New York Times and CNN.

The flurry of subpoenas suggested the investigation, which is separate from the seizure of Trump administration documents from Mar-a-Lago, is picking up pace.

At least two Trump aides, Boris Epshteyn and Mark Roman, had their phones seized as evidence, according to the Times. Epshteyn declined comment.

The subpoenas seek information about the Trump campaign's plan to organize alternate slates of electors in states President Joe Biden won. Epshteyn had copied on emails in late 2020 from Trump lawyer John Eastman, who developed the plan.

President Donald Trump addresses his supporters at a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as president in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

Eastman has already been subpoenaed and had his phone seized. Eastman earlier refused to answer questions from the House panel investigating the Capitol attack or a grand jury in Georgia based on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Another subpoena recipient was Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, who coordinated the investigation of claims of voter fraud with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Kerik’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, told USA TODAY that Kerik was willing to testify to federal investigators as he had already before the House committee. Kerik had already turned over examples of probable case of election fraud to the Justice Department for further investigation in late 2020, Parlatore said.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr has testified to the House panel that the department found no evidence to support the Trump campaign's claims of widespread fraud.

Parlatore said the department's latest subpoena read as if the current investigation had no focus and asked Kerik about names he didn’t recognize.

“The normal DOJ subpoena looks like rifle shots,” Parlatore said. “This looks like a whole bunch of scatter-shot shotgun blasts, almost like a spray-and-pray mindset.”

The latest subpoenas included one to Dan Scavino, Trump’s former social-media director, according to the Times. Trump promoted his fundraising to fight the results of the 2020 election and his rally the morning of Jan. 6 through social media. Scavino’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined comment.

Others who were subpoenaed include former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and Sean Dollman, the campaign's chief financial officer, according to CNN.

The Justice Department declined comment on the subpoenas.

White House official Dan Scavino, right, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, left, walk toward Marine One with President Donald Trump on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

The investigation is separate from the seizure of Trump administration documents, which included dozens of classified records, from Mar-a-Lago. In that probe, federal investigators said they were looking for evidence of violations of the Espionage Act for mishandling national defense documents or of obstruction of justice.

More:Will Trump or his allies face charges over Jan. 6? Legal experts explain hurdles DOJ faces

The investigation is also separate, but overlaps with a local investigation in Fulton County, Georgia. District Attorney Fani Willis has convened a special grand jury to investigate fake electors and other potential election fraud by Trump and his campaign. The grand jury has subpoenaed Eastman and Giuliani, among others.

The Justice Department earlier declined without explanation to press charges against Scavino or former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows over defying subpoenas from the House committee investigating the attack. But the department charged Trump political strategist Steve Bannon, who was convicted of contempt, and former trade adviser Peter Navarro, who awaits trial.