Friday, July 19, 2024

Federal prosecutors have quietly withdrawn a subpoena seeking records from former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 campaign as part of their investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s political and fund-raising operations committed any crimes as he sought to stay in power after he lost the election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The decision this week by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to effectively kill the subpoena to the Trump campaign came on the heels of the withdrawal of a similar subpoena to Save America, the political action committee that was formed by Mr. Trump’s aides shortly after he lost the race in 2020.

The rescission of the subpoenas to Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and Save America was an indication that Mr. Smith’s office was slowing down or even closing its monthslong inquiry into whether Mr. Trump’s political operation broke any laws by citing baseless claims of election fraud to raise money. The withdrawal of the subpoena to Save America was first reported last week by The Washington Post.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump did not respond to requests seeking comment. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

For more than a year, Mr. Smith’s team, following a path first taken by the House select committee that investigated what led to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, has been trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud laws in their fund-raising. The former president’s team raised nearly $250 million with widespread claims that the election had been rigged against Mr. Trump, even though he had been told several times that there was no substantial evidence the vote results had been marred by cheating.

Prosecutors had been drilling down on Save America and the Trump campaign since at least November last year, issuing grand jury subpoenas and reviewing reams of records. But the financial strand of Mr. Smith’s investigation was not mentioned in the indictment filed in Washington in August that accused Mr. Trump of conspiring to remain in power by subverting the normal democratic process.

Mr. Trump’s team has long maintained that the financial inquiry by Mr. Smith’s office would struggle to yield any charges. Political fund-raising materials often engage in bombast or exaggeration, and a fine line exists between criminal behavior and solicitations protected by the First Amendment.

The House committee raised the issue about potential problems with Mr. Trump’s fund-raising efforts at a hearing in June last year. At the hearing, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, laid out the panel’s account of how Save America and the Trump campaign raised millions of dollars after the election by claiming they were fighting widespread fraud when they knew there was none.

“Throughout the committee’s investigation, we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for,” Ms. Lofgren said. “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off.”

The grand jury investigation into potential financial crimes began last year when prosecutors issued an early round of subpoenas to a group of low- and midlevel aides who had worked for Mr. Trump’s campaign. Prosecutors then undertook a broader effort to investigate Save America and the Trump campaign this spring, issuing a flurry of new subpoenas.

Prosecutors focused heavily on details of the campaign’s finances, spending and fund-raising, asking questions about who was approving email solicitations that were sent to lists of possible small donors. They also delved into what campaign officials knew about the truth of Mr. Trump’s fraud claims, according to people familiar with their work.

Save America was officially registered with the Federal Election Commission on Nov. 9, 2020, two days after news organizations declared that Mr. Trump had lost the election to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Since then, Mr. Trump has used Save America largely as a vehicle to pay a phalanx of lawyers representing him in his various criminal cases as well as others charged in the cases and witnesses.

In recent months, these legal bills have become so substantial that Save America requested a refund of $60 million that it sent to the super PAC supporting Mr. Trump’s 2024 run for president.

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