Leading Trump Official Forced To Testify Under Oath In DOJ Probe

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Ken Cuccinelli testified on Thursday before a federal grand jury in D.C. that circumstances appear to indicate is involved in the investigative work now under the purview of Special Counsel Jack Smith. Smith took over the Justice Department’s classified docs investigation involving former President Trump and its look at the political schemes around Trump after the 2020 presidential election supporting his effort to stay in power.

Cuccinelli served in multiple roles in the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration and was considered by Donald Trump for a role as special counsel as the then-president and his allies tried to gin up some kind of case in support of their unsupported claims of widespread election fraud. (Also under consideration for such a role was attorney Sidney Powell, who’s spread a bevy of ludicrous conspiracy theories about the last presidential election and now faces defamation litigation.) Cuccinelli was also involved in discussions inside the Trump administration about equipment from Dominion Voting Systems used in the 2020 elections. Seizing equipment used in the 2020 elections was among the ideas circulating in Trump’s circles around that time, with ally and former official Michael Flynn even suggesting involving the military in re-running components of the election.

Cuccinelli reportedly concluded his area of authority didn’t possess the legal standing to seize voting machines. Among the specific contexts where such an idea was discussed was an hours-long meeting at the White House in December of 2020 shortly before Trump sent his infamous tweet admonishing his followers to show up in Washington, D.C., on January 6. Pat Cipollone, who was White House counsel, was present for at least some of that meeting and spoke in testimony to the House committee that investigated the Capitol riot about the lack of a legal foundation for the idea of seizing the election equipment. “To have the federal government seize voting machines? That’s a terrible idea for the country,” Cipollone told investigators. “That’s not how we do things in the United States. There’s no legal authority to do that, and there is a way to contest elections.”

Cuccinelli reportedly replied that he didn’t know what he’d be asked about before the federal jury on Thursday, and it’s unclear if he received a subpoena in this probe or was voluntarily testifying. In other news related to some of these people facing consequences for their actions, authorities with the California state bar announced a case this week against lawyer John Eastman, an infamous ally to Trump in his attempts at overturning the result of the 2020 presidential election. An announcement from the state bar pointed to Eastman’s record of false statements, which a credible assessment of the circumstances would have allowed him to see were false. The counsel handling the case will be seeking Eastman’s disbarment, which if approved by the specialized court handling attorney discipline in California would also require approval from the California state Supreme Court.