Senior national security officials have testified to a federal grand jury that they repeatedly told former President Donald Trump and his allies that the government did not have the authority to use voting machines after the 2020 election.
Chad Wolf, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security, and his former deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, were questioned about discussions within the administration about DHS seizing voting machines when they appeared before a grand jury earlier this year, according to three people familiar with the matter. Cuccinelli testified that he “made it clear at all times” that DHS did not have the authority to take such a step, one of the sources said.
Trump’s former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, in a closed-door interview with federal prosecutors this year, also recounted conversations about capturing voting machines after the 2020 election, including in a heated Oval Office meeting that Trump participated in, according to a. known as the source of the matter.
The details of the secret grand jury testimony and the O’Brien interview, neither of which have been previously reported, illustrate how the special counsel of Jack Smith and his prosecutors, looking at Trump in various ways, tried to overturn the election loss despite the urging of some of the top officials. him against ideas.
Now some of those same officers, including Wolf, Cuccinelli and O’Brien, and others who have so far refused to testify, may return to a grand jury in Washington, DC, to serve as additional evidence after the series. The court’s rulings, which were revealed in recent weeks, rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
Cuccinelli was spotted returning to the grand jury on Tuesday, April 4.
Without this privilege clip, former officials must answer about their conversations and interactions with the former president, including what they could not pursue regarding evidence of election fraud and legal remedies.
That question of questioning brought to the heart of Smith’s challenge in any criminal case, to prove that Trump and his associates attempted to pursue him despite knowing that their fraudulent claims were false or misleading. To bring any potential criminal charges, Trump’s prosecutors had to overcome public claims he believed then and now that fraud really cost him the election.
“You can demonstrate nothing in many ways. But certainly one of them is if those who knew what they were talking about were told that there was no basis for taking actions,” said Adav Noti, a law attorney for the elections, who previously served as the Attorney General of Washington, DC, and serves as the general counsel for the election of the Federal Council.
“I don’t want a defense attorney trying to argue, ‘Well, yes, he said, here’s mine, but he never believed it,'” Noti said.
Inside Trump’s White House after the 2020 election, the push to seize voting machines was finally brought down to the executive ranks in mid-December of that year, directing the military and DHS to carry out the task despite Lupo and Cuccinelli telling Trump and his allies. over whose works he had no power.
Those orders, which he debunked over allegations of voting system irregularities in Michigan and Georgia, were presented to Trump by former national security adviser Michael Flynn and then lawyer Sidney Powell in a now-infamous Oval Office meeting on December 18.
Smith’s team questioned witnesses about that meeting in front of a grand jury and held closed-door interviews, multiple sources told CNN. Among them was O’Brien, who told the House Select Committee six days ago that he was forced into the Dec. 18 meeting by phone after an already heated argument between House attorneys Volcano, Powell and White, according to a transcript of O. ‘Brien’ Brien’s deposition, which was released on file. it is.
O’Brien said the commission asked him at some point if there was evidence of election fraud or foreign interference in the voting machines. And I said: We have looked at nothing, and there is no evidence of it, answered Brien. “We have been told that we have no evidence of voting machine fraud in the 2020 election.”
When asked about that meeting by federal prosecutors working for Smith, O’Brien insisted that he had made it clear that there was no evidence of foreign interference in the casting of the voting machines, according to a source familiar with the matter.
O’Brien met with prosecutors earlier this year after receiving a subpoena from Smith’s team, and is among Trump officials who could be recalled to discuss conversations with Trump under a recent judge’s ruling on executive privilege.
Chief of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who personally told associates of the former president there was no evidence of foreign election interference or widespread fraud that would justify taking extreme steps like voting machines, must testify, a judge ruled.
A spokesman for Ratcliffe did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. Wolf declined to comment.
Cuccinelli acknowledged at the February 6 meeting that after the election he was asked several times by Trump’s then-attorney Rudy Giuliani, and at least once by Trump himself, if DHS had the power to seize voting machines. Wolf told the committee that he was repeatedly asked the same question by then White House chief of staff Mark Pratt.
Giuliani, who was subpoenaed by the Justice Department before Smith took over the investigation, previously acknowledged on February 6 that he participated in an Oval Office meeting on December 18 with others holding conversations about DHS and carrying military equipment.
Giuliani told congressional investigators that he and his team “tried a lot of ways to see if we could have caught the devices,” including DHS options, according to a transcript of his committee interview. Giuliani also admitted to participating in the talks – even before Dec. 18. Oval Office meeting – where the idea of using military to capture voting machines was raised.
“I remember a campaign event a long time ago and constantly coming to say, ‘Will you please not forget?’ Just close it. Do you want to go to jail? Just close it. “We don’t use it,” he added.
Robert Costello, Giuliani’s attorney, told CNN that Giuliani has not received a subpoena from Smith. Solemnly said that in early November, Giuliani was subpoenaed by the DC US Attorney seeking documents and testimony. Costello said he was told by the Justice Department that Giuliani could not comply with the deaths because they were in the midst of a disciplinary hearing at the time. The last time Giuliani heard from the DOJ, Solemnis says.
“I haven’t heard a word since November 2022,” Solemn told reporters on March 30.