Federal investigators conducted a pre-dawn search on Wednesday of the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, as part of the department’s sprawling probe into efforts to nullify the 2020 election, people close to the case and an associate of Mr. Clark said.
It was unclear exactly what investigators might be looking for. But Mr. Clark played a pivotal role in President Donald J. Trump’s failed efforts in late 2020 to force the nation’s top prosecutors to support his voter fraud allegations, and research has suggested the criminal investigation could get closer to Mr. Trump.
The law enforcement action at Mr. Clark’s home in suburban Virginia came just a day before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was to hold a hearing examining Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department after his election defeat.
The committee reported that the hearing would explore Mr. Clark’s role in helping Mr. Trump bend the department to his will and, ultimately, help persuade officials in several key states to change the election outcome in these states.
One of Mr. Clark’s associates described a dramatic scene early Wednesday morning when a dozen federal law enforcement officials raided the home, seized Mr. Clark’s electronic devices and took him away. thrown out in pajamas.
“All because Jeff saw fit to investigate voter fraud,” said associate Russ Vought, who directs the Center for Renewing America, where Clark is a senior fellow. “This is not America, folks. The militarization of government must end.
Mr. Clark and his lawyer declined to comment.
The search of Mr Clark’s home was an important step in the Justice Department’s multi-tentacled investigation into efforts to overturn the democratic process after the 2020 election.
In early spring, a separate arm of the investigation came to light when grand jury subpoenas were issued seeking information on a wide range of political organizers, White House aides and members of the Congress variously linked to Mr. Trump’s inflammatory speech near the White House. which directly preceded the capture of the Capitol.
Mr. Clark’s involvement in the investigation was also the latest sign that the department’s investigation had moved ever closer to Mr. Trump himself – and some of his congressional allies. Encouraged by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Mr. Trump considered and then abandoned a plan in the days before the Jan. 6 attack to put Mr. Clark in charge of the Justice Department as prosecutor. Acting General.
At the time, Mr. Clark was offering to send a letter to Georgia state officials falsely stating that the department had evidence that could cause Georgia to rescind its certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. in this key state. The effort was cut short by his superiors in the department.
The themes of the January 6 House committee hearings
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said little publicly about the criminal investigation other than that the Justice Department would follow the facts. But he has come under pressure from some Democrats, including members of the House Select Committee, to hold Mr. Trump and his allies accountable for efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
The dramatic developments regarding Mr Clark came to light as a federal grand jury sitting in Washington continued to issue subpoenas to those implicated in a related plan by Mr Trump and his allies to void the election : an effort to subvert the normal functioning of the electoral process by creating fake lists of pro-Trump voters in states that were actually won by Mr. Biden.
In the past two days, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, at least nine people in four different states have received subpoenas in connection with the bogus voter investigation. They are largely those who have themselves agreed to be Mr. Trump’s voters or have participated in Mr. Trump’s campaign in the states where the plan has been implemented.
Among those who received subpoenas were Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, and her husband, Michael, who both served as voters on Mr. Trump’s purported slate in the state, according to a report. person close to the file. Along with the precincts, subpoenas were issued to two other pro-Trump voters in Arizona, Nancy Cottle and Loraine B. Pellegrino, the person said.
Their attorney, Alexander Kolodin, attacked the Justice Department’s bogus election investigation.
“This is an investigation based on allegations that our clients engaged in primary First Amendment activity — petitioning Congress about grievances,” Mr. Kolodin said.
On Wednesday night, local Nevada media reported another development in the fake voter investigation: Federal agents armed with a search warrant had seized the phone of Michael McDonald, Nevada’s Republican Party chairman who had been pro Trump. voter in the state. A search warrant was also issued for party secretary James DeGraffenreid, who had also been involved in the scheme as a voter, the outlet reported.
Lawyers for Mr. McDonald and Mr. DeGraffenreid did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.
While several state officials and Trump campaign aides have received subpoenas in the bogus voter investigation, the investigation is focused primarily on a group of attorneys who worked closely with Mr. Trump to devise the scheme. Those attorneys include Rudolph W. Giuliani, who oversaw Mr. Trump’s election challenges generally, and John Eastman, who advised the former president on creating fake voters, among other things.
Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Eastman have featured prominently in previous hearings this month by the House Select Committee. Both men, the committee showed, were intimately involved in efforts to persuade state officials to throw the election to Mr. Trump and to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into granting alone to Mr. Trump a victory in the Electoral College.
At the committee’s latest hearing on Tuesday, investigators for the first time directly linked Mr. Trump to the bogus election plan. The committee presented a recorded deposition from Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, in which she recounted how Mr. Trump called her and put Mr. Eastman on the phone “to talk about the importance to the RNC of help the campaign rally these contingent voters.
Mr. Clark’s role in efforts to overturn the election is arguably most closely tied to the campaign to pressure state officials to create pro-Trump voters.
In late December 2020, Mr. Clark, while acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, helped draft a letter to Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia stating — without evidence — that the Justice Department had identified “significant concerns” about the “election outcome” in Georgia and several other states.
The letter advised Mr. Kemp, a Republican, to call a special session of his state’s General Assembly to create “a separate list of voters supporting Donald J. Trump.”
Mr. Clark pressured then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen to sign and send the letter to Mr. Kemp, but Mr. Rosen refused.
Mr. Rosen is due to testify before the House committee during its hearing on Thursday.
Katie Benner contributed report.