The Justice Department has pressed top advisers to Mike Pence in recent weeks about efforts by several lawyers for former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election results as prosecutors escalate their 18-month Capitol riot probe. Two senior advisers to the former vice president, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and legal counsel Greg Jacob, appeared before a grand jury under subpoena in Washington in connection with the investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports. One area of interest to prosecutors was a Jan. 4, 2021, Oval Office meeting where conservative lawyer John Eastman pushed Pence, in Trump’s presence, to either reject the electoral votes outright or suspend the proceedings and ask several state legislatures to re-examine the results. Last month, Jacob testified at length before the Jan. 6 congressional committee about that meeting, which included Trump, Pence, Short, Eastman and Jacob. In that meeting, Eastman admitted his proposals would violate the law but wanted to proceed anyway, Jacob said. A federal judge last year found that Eastman and Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony in their efforts to block the 2020 election results.
The developments come as the Justice Department has added prosecutors and resources to its sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters, as the related congressional hearings have also shed new light on Trump’s own role in the effort to alter the election outcome. Top Justice Department leaders and prosecutors on the case have said they aren’t taking cues from the congressional inquiry, stressing that their investigation is operating separately. But, as the grand jury subpoenas of Short and Jacob show, the two investigations at times appear to be following similar tracks. The third hearing before the committee dug into the pressure Trump put on Pence and included recorded testimony of Short and live testimony by Jacob. Prosecutors have charged more than 850 people in connection with the Jan. 6 violence, including more than a dozen members of right-wing groups charged with engaging in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. Both Eastman and Clark have denied wrongdoing. The interviews with Pence’s advisers suggest prosecutors are targeting a senior circle of Trump associates who pushed for the former vice president to accept the false documents and halt the certification of President Biden’s victory.