Federal prosecutors questioning witnesses about Trump's conduct related to Jan. 6 inquiry

Former President Donald Trump addresses attendees during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Saturday, July 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors have been questioning witnesses about the conduct of former President Donald Trump as part of an inquiry into an effort to overturn the 2020 election, a person familiar with the matter said.

The action is part of a more aggressive review of attempts by the former president's allies to intervene in the election by substituting fake electors to tilt the vote in key states and to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of President Joe Biden's election.

While the source said prosecutors have recently questioned witnesses about Trump, the person declined to describe the queries in detail.

The examination of Trump's actions in the run-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection was first disclosed by The Washington Post, which cited four people familiar with the matter.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined comment.  

Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a Tuesday interview with NBC News, did not exempt Trump from federal scrutiny in the Jan. 6 investigation, saying that federal prosecutors will pursue "anyone who was criminally responsible."

"We pursue justice without fear or favor," Garland told NBC when pressed on whether that could include Trump. "I'll say again that we will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the... legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next."

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks following a briefing by ATF Director Steven M. Dettelbach on the progress of the launch of the department's regional firearms trafficking strike forces to address violent crime, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. on July 20.

Last month, federal investigators searched the home of former assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark, who drafted a letter to officials in six states to overturn their election results. And authorities seized the cellphone of John Eastman, one of Trump's personal lawyers who developed a scheme to have then-Vice President Pence singlehandedly reject electors from states Joe Biden won. Pence refused to carry out such a plan.

Previously:Feds search home of Jeffrey Clark, ex-DOJ official at center of Trump's effort to overturn election

Charging Trump?:Will Trump or his allies face charges over Jan. 6? Legal experts explain hurdles DOJ faces

This week, Pence's former chief of staff, Marc Short, acknowledged that he had testified before a federal grand jury last week. Short told CNN that he received a grand jury subpoena and complied with it.

In its Tuesday report, The Post also disclosed that federal authorities in April had obtained the phone records of Trump administration aides, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows.