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Reports: DOJ criminal investigation hones in on Trump communications

Department of Justice investigators are asking witnesses questions about former President Trump’s conduct and examining his conversations with aides concerning the 2020 election as part of their criminal investigation, the Washington Post first reported.

Why it matters: This would mark a major escalation in the DOJ’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The reports came hours after Attorney General Merrick Garland declined to rule out prosecuting Trump.

  • Federal investigators would “pursue justice without fear or favor” over events surrounding the U.S. Capitol riot or attempts “to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another,” Garland told NBC News on Tuesday.

For the record: There’s no evidence that Trump is himself is an investigation target, but “prosecutors are asking questions related to him and his aides,” per CBS News, which also reported on the Justice Department investigation.

Driving the news: Prosecutors have questioned witnesses testifying before a grand jury in recent days about conversations with Trump and his close advisers about “fake electors,” per WashPost.

  • “People familiar with the probe said investigators are examining the former president’s conversations and have seized phone records of top aides,” WashPost reports.
  • Two witnesses who were senior aides to former Vice President Mike Pence in the Trump administration, Marc Short and lawyer Greg Jacob, were among those questioned, several outlets reported.
  • The focus of the questions on Trump concerned matters including a plan to thwart the congressional certification of President Biden’s Electoral College win on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the New York Times.

Flashback: Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, confirmed Monday that he had testified before the grand jury, but declined to comment further.

Worth noting: Trump has always denied any

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