Grand jury subpoenas issued last month to two Arizona state lawmakers show the breadth of the criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington into efforts by supporters of Donald Trump to use “false electors” to try to undo Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
The subpoenas issued to Karen Fann, president of the Arizona Senate, and Sen. Kelly Townsend also seek communications “relating to any effort, plan, or attempt to serve as an Elector” in favor of the then-president and then-vice president.
A subpoena is not an accusation but rather a demand for information that investigators believe may help them solve a crime. The documents released Monday cast a wide net for any communications that Fann and Townsend may have had with any member of the executive or legislative branch of the federal government; any representative or agent of Trump or his campaign; or Trump boosters Jenna Ellis, Bernard Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, Boris Epshteyn, James Troupis, Joe DiGenova, John Eastman, Joshua Findlay, Justin Clark, Kenneth Chesebro, Mike Roman or Victoria Toensing.
The subpoenas are just one part of a significant escalation and expansion of the Justice Department’s criminal probe of the events of and leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election results. Around the same time in mid-June, federal agents fanned out in multiple states to serve subpoenas, execute search warrants and interview potential witnesses as part of the investigation into the electors scheme.
Separately, a grand jury in Washington examining Jan. 6 heard testimony Friday from Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Pence, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. Short’s grand jury appearance was first reported by ABC News. He testified on the same day that a jury in the federal courthouse convicted longtime Trump confidant Stephen K. Bannon of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information to the U.S. House committee investigating Jan. 6.
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Fann huddled with Arizona state lawmakers and Maricopa County officials to try to broker a deal to conduct a joint audit by an accredited firm of the county’s election results.
On Dec. 1, 2020, she attended a meeting with Giuliani and Ellis, both of whom worked as attorneys for Trump, as well as Kerik, state Republican lawmakers and retired Col. Phil Waldron. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) also attended the meeting and later said Giuliani made various claims about election fraud that the former New York mayor could not back up.
“My recollection, he said, ‘We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence,’ ” Bowers told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
In the end, the GOP Senate that Fann presided over launched its own review of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County for the presidential and U.S. Senate race, using a Florida-based firm with no experience in auditing elections. The review affirmed Biden’s win.
In late 2020, Townsend, as a state representative, sought to prevent the certification of Arizona’s electoral votes. On Dec. 31, she wrote a letter to Pence asking the vice president “to refrain from accepting the Biden electors” until state lawmakers could adequately investigate claims of voter fraud. It is unclear if Pence received the letter.
“We believe it is impossible to conclusively declare a winner in Arizona and pray that you would refrain from counting the electoral votes from our state, and consider the alternate slate should we be able to establish validity to the various claims of election fraud on such a scale that would change the outcome,” said the letter, obtained by the watchdog group American Oversight.
The subpoenas to Fann and Townsend seek all communications or documents exchanged with those who served as Arizona’s alternate electors, as well as communications with state Rep. Mark Finchem, a vocal “Stop the Steal” proponent now vying for the Republican nomination for secretary of state.
Finchem helped organize a Nov. 30, 2020, meeting in downtown Phoenix attended by Giuliani, Ellis, GOP congressmen, state lawmakers and others, where speakers claimed widespread fraud in the election. Finchem was in Washington on Jan. 6. The House committee probing the events of that day issued a subpoena to him in February seeking information about his activities after the election, including comments he made about delivering “an evidence book and letter to Vice President Pence showing key evidence of fraud” in the election “and asking him to consider postponing the award of electors.”
The subpoenas to Fann and Townsend also seek any communications they had with a host of Arizona GOP figures who either helped assemble a list of Trump-backing electors or were on a list of such electors.
Townsend has previously said that as chair of the elections committee, she tried to conduct an investigation because legislators “have plenary authority and responsibility to send the correct slate, and because it was in question, we wanted to have an alternate slate in case fraud was discovered and found.”
On Monday, she said she had one or two phone calls with Giuliani in December 2020 but no longer has the phone on which those calls were made. She said she has described the nature of the calls to the FBI.
“They asked me not to talk about it because of the investigation,” Townsend told The Washington Post in an interview. She said it was her impression that FBI agents were seeking information about one of Trump’s attorneys.
The subpoenas also seek a list of all email accounts, social media accounts and telephone numbers used by Fann and Townsend between October 2020 and now.
The subpoenas are signed by Thomas Windom, a federal prosecutor who has been tasked with investigating the false-electors scheme.
A spokesperson for Fann, who is not seeking reelection when her term expires in January, has said she is cooperating with the investigation. The spokesperson said they do not expect Fann to have to testify in person to the grand jury, which is located in Washington.
Some within Trump’s orbit, particularly Eastman, a law professor, had advocated offering new slates of “Trump electors” to challenge the electors in key states, such as Arizona, that Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020. The scheme failed in part because even GOP-controlled state legislatures did not endorse the effort.
Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. In what was likely its final hearing, the committee issued a surprise subpoena seeking testimony from former president Donald Trump. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.
Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.