The Justice Department is asking witnesses about Trump in the Jan. 6 investigation.

Federal prosecutors have asked witnesses directly in recent days about their involvement in efforts to reverse the election defeat of former President Donald J. Trump, a person familiar with the testimony said Tuesday, adding that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation has become more aggressive and It has moved forward politically. full phase.

Mr. Trump’s personal role in the elements of undoing the damage to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020 has long been established, both by his public actions and statements and by evidence collected by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack. through.

But the Justice Department has been largely silent on how and even if it will consider pursuing potential charges against Mr. Trump, and has been reluctant to acknowledge that senior leadership at the department Their role was discussed in the meetings.

Asking Mr Trump questions about election conspiracy or the attack on the Capitol does not mean the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into him, a decision that would have far-reaching political and legal ramifications.

The department’s investigation into a central factor in keeping Mr. Trump in office — a plan to name slates of electors with Mr. Trump in battleground states won by Mr. Biden — now involves prosecutors with the U.S. attorney. appears to accelerate as The office in Washington asks witnesses about Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle, including the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a person familiar with the testimony said.

In April, before the committee convened its series of public hearings, Justice Department investigators obtained phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump White House, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury in the case last week, and prosecutors sought subpoenas and search warrants for a growing number of records linked to Mr. Trump and his damage control campaign. have been released.

A spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland declined to comment, saying the Justice Department did not provide details of the grand jury action. The department was questioning witnesses about Mr. Trump and seizing his phone records. Reported earlier By the Washington Post.

If the decision is made to open a criminal investigation against Mr. Trump after he announces his intention to run in the 2024 election, as he has consistently indicated he might, the department’s leadership would A formal consultation process will need to be initiated, then signed. Formal approval of the department’s intentions under an internal rule created by former Attorney General William P. Barr and endorsed by Mr. Garland.

But in recent days, Mr. Garland has repeatedly asserted his right to investigate or prosecute anyone, including Mr. Trump, provided that’s where the evidence is found.

“The Department of Justice is moving quickly to learn everything we can about this period from the beginning, and to bring to justice anyone who criminally transferred power from one administration to another.” was responsible for interfering with the transition, which is the fundamental element. of our democracy,” Mr. Garland told “NBC Nightly News.” In an interview that aired Tuesday, he was asked to comment on criticism that his investigation was moving too slowly.

The person familiar with the testimony said questions about Mr. Trump, among other topics, were the plan he was pushing to derail congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Two of Pence’s aides who testified before the grand jury — Mark Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacobs, his lawyer — were present at the Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4, 2021, when Mr. Trump said Pressure Mr. Pence to accept a plan to cite competitive slates of electors as justification for withholding or delaying Electoral College certification.

In recent weeks, the Justice Department also seized the phones of two key figures, John Eastman, a lawyer who helped develop and publicize the plan to retain Electoral College certification, and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official. There was a former official, who was at the center of it. Mr. Biden had promised Mr. Trump that winning states would have corresponding pressure to send electoral slates.

Prosecutors have also issued grand jury subpoenas for data related to the so-called fraudulent election scheme. Most of the people who have received these requests have been state legislators or Republican officials, many of whom have put their names on documents certifying that they are from states won by Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. was the electorate of

The subpoenas, some of which were obtained by OlxPraca, show prosecutors are interested in gathering information about a group of pro-Trump lawyers who helped devise and implement the plan. contributed, including Mr. Eastman and Rudolph W. Giuliani. who was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

There are also signs that tensions are easing between Justice Department and congressional investigators over transcripts of interviews conducted for the Jan. 6 committee hearings. The House is about to begin handing over some transcripts and plans to pick up the pace in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the situation.

Committee members, led by Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, have said they are still considering a criminal referral to the Justice Department, hoping to increase pressure on Mr. Garland to prosecute Mr. Trump.

Mr. Garland shrugged off the suggestion.

“I think it’s totally up to the committee,” he said in his NBC interview. “We will have the evidence that the committee has presented, and whatever evidence they give us, I don’t think that the nature of their style, the way in which the information is presented, has any particular significance from any legal point of view. keeps.”