“It’s always about the obstruction”: New TrumpWorld subpoenas target effort to "influence" witnesses

Special counsel targets payments related to potential efforts to "influence or even intimidate" witnesses: expert

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published January 12, 2023 9:10AM (EST)

Donald Trump and Cassidy Hutchinson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Cassidy Hutchinson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

A "wide-ranging" subpoena sent to Trump campaign officials last month shows that special counsel Jack Smith's Jan. 6 investigation is increasingly focused on new areas of interest, including fundraising efforts and potential efforts to influence witness testimony, according to The Washington Post.

The DOJ issued the four-page subpoena to multiple Trump campaign officials in early December, seeking more than "two dozen categories of information," according to the report. One part of the subpoena asks Trump campaign officials if anyone paid for their legal representation and paperwork related to any such agreement.

The subpoena also seeks "all documents and communications" related to Trump's fundraising activities for a litany of groups outside of his Save America PAC, which has already come under scrutiny. The new subpoenas seek documents related to the Make America Great Again PAC, the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, including documents related to the "formation, funding and/or use of money" of the groups.

The subpoena also seeks documents related to the creation of an "Election Defense Fund," which Trump officials ostensibly formed created to raise money from grassroots donors after Trump's election loss. Officials later testified to the House Jan. 6 committee that the fund technically did not exist but was a way to raise money from people who bought into Trump's Big Lie.

Prosecutors' interest in the payments comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the Jan. 6 committee that she was initially represented by a Trump-linked lawyer who would not tell her who was paying his fees and said she did not need a formal written retention agreement.

"I was like, 'I probably should sign an engagement letter.' And he said, 'No, no, no. We're not doing that. Don't worry. We have you taken care of,'" she told the panel, according to a transcript of the interview.

After her initial interview with the committee, the lawyer told Hutchinson that the people paying his fees would not want her to agree to additional interviews unless she is required to do so by a new subpoena, according to her testimony.

"'Trump world will not continue paying your legal bills if you don't have that second subpoena,'" Hutchinson recalled him saying, after hiring a new lawyer.

"At the heart of these subpoenas, in addition to previously reported investigation into fundraising fraud, there appears to be an inquiry into whether witness testimony was being improperly influenced. It's always about the obstruction," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

"The efforts to influence and/or even intimidate witnesses has always stuck out for me too," agreed MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin.


Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.


Along with information on the payments and fundraising, the subpoena also seeks campaign communications about Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting technology companies that faced a torrent of false allegations accusing them of election fraud.

It also asks for information related to the Trump campaign's fake elector scheme, which included more than 100 individuals in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and Michigan.

The subpoena also asks for information related to any internal analysis of the former president's fraud claims and documents related to the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse. The Jan. 6 committee found that numerous Trump officials found that there was no basis for his election fraud claims but he continued to push the lies on social media and at the rally preceding the deadly Capitol riot.

The report comes as the "grand jury has accelerated its activities in recent weeks, bringing in a rapid-fire series of witnesses, both high and low level," according to the Post.

Some of the witnesses in recent weeks returned for their second appearance before the grand jury. One source familiar with one of the grand jury appearances told ABC News it was "far more intense than round one."


By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Capitol Riot Cassidy Hutchinson Donald Trump January 6 Politics