The Justice Department has issued dozens of subpoenas and seized at least two phones related to Donald Trump's fake electors scheme, which represents a substantial escalation in the criminal probe against the former president and his efforts to remain in office.
Investigators targeted Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, who had already been subpoenaed by the House select committee, and Timothy Parlatore, an attorney for former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, and NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian explained to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the significance of these new developments.
"These subpoenas went to all sorts of people associated with the Trump campaign," Dilanian said. "We haven't confirmed all the names, but one of the persons whose phone was seized was a guy named Boris Epshteyn, a key Trump insider, and a lawyer named Timothy Parlatore, who represents Bernard Kerik. He told me he represents Donald Trump in this matter. He characterized the subpoena as very broad, basically seeking anything and everything about the Trump campaign and efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which he called investigating fraud, and also, efforts to raise money for that 'Stop the Steal' movement that led up to the Jan. 6 insurrection."
"So it's a really broad-based set of activity that looks like it's coming just before the 60-day window, the quiet period where the Justice Department doesn't like to do things before the election," Dilanian added. "Again, I have said this before, it's not clear they're going to apply that here. Donald Trump is not on the ballot, although he does loom large over politics. It's a major escalation into an investigation that a lot of critics wondered where was the Justice Department on this. We have seen a lot from the Jan. 6 Committee. The Justice Department is showing up in a big way here."
The focus on fake electors also indicates that the Justice Department considers that scheme to be the easiest element of the conspiracy to commit sedition to prosecute, Dilanian said.
"I would say that's one of three major focuses, but it's an important one, and what we've seen from the Georgia state investigation into that fake elector scheme is that at least that prosecutor down there thinks that's a really fruitful area to look at," Dilanian said. "The potential crimes there are very clear, maybe more clear than perhaps this rather vague, you know, obstruction of Congress issue that is at issue with the question of the Jan. 6 insurrection itself and whether Trump had complicity in that."
"The fake elector scheme looks like basic fraud, and that is a focus of the Justice Department," Dilanian added. "Another interesting focus in recent weeks that's emerged is this focus on raising money for the 'Stop the Steal' movement, a lot of which, you know, didn't really go to political activity, apparently, or that's the allegation. You know, is there a massive con there of the people who are pouring money into the effort by people who knew there wasn't fraud but who were raising money on the idea that there was fraud. Both of those two things are the kind of cases that prosecutors bring all the time in different context, and so, yeah, I think those are very fruitful areas for the Justice Department."
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