Timeline: Special counsel's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election

Special counsel Jack Smith was tapped in November to oversee the investigation.

April 11, 2024, 10:13 AM

Former acting U.S. attorney Jack Smith was appointed in November to oversee the investigation into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Here is how the special counsel probe has unfolded.

Nov. 18, 2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the entirety of the Justice Department's criminal investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. The announcement is triggered when Trump's announcement that he is running for president for a third time creates a potential conflict of interest with the Justice Department.

Smith previously served as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague charged with investigating war crimes in Kosovo.

Nov. 22, 2022

Smith issues subpoenas to officials from multiple states that were targeted by Trump and his allies in the failed attempt to reverse his loss to Joe Biden.

According to a copy of a subpoena obtained by ABC News, the Justice Department seeks any and all records related to communications by state election officials with Trump or his advisers and allies, including Kenneth Chesebro, Justin Clark, Joe DiGenova, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Bernard Kerik, Bruce Marks, Cleta Mitchell, Matthew Morgan, Kurt Olsen, William Olsen, Stefan Passantino, Sidney Powell, Bill Stepien, Victoria Toensing, James Troupis and Lin Wood, between June 1, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021.

Dec. 2, 2022

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin testify before the federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Their appearances come after a judge rules against attorneys for Trump who had argued that testimony by Trump's former top White House aides was protected by executive privilege.

PHOTO: Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to reporters, June 9, 2023, in Washington.
Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to reporters, June 9, 2023, in Washington.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Dec. 13, 2022

ABC News reports that Smith has issued subpoenas to election officials in Georgia and New Mexico, including the secretary of state's offices in both states and officials in Georgia's Cobb County, for communications with or involving Trump, his 2020 campaign aides, and a list of Trump allies involved in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Jan. 11, 2023

ABC News reports that multiple associates of Trump have received new, wide-ranging subpoenas from Smith, requesting documents and records far more expansive than the previous outreaches these individuals received from the Department of Justice before Smith's appointment.

Feb. 22, 2023

ABC News reports that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both former senior White House advisers, have been subpoenaed by the special counsel.

The special counsel seeks information from the couple specifically related to his probe of Jan. 6 and the activities leading up to that day by the former president and his allies, sources tell ABC News.

March 6, 2023

Trump is seeking to prevent the special counsel from using Cipollone and Philbin's testimony before the federal grand jury as evidence in his ongoing probe, sources tell ABC News.

April 20, 2023

Top Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn meets with special counsel prosecutors, sources tell ABC News.

Sources say that Smith personally sits in on a portion of Epshteyn's interview, but does not participate in any of the questioning.

April 27, 2023

A day after a federal appeals panel rejects an effort from Trump to prevent former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying in the special counsel's probe, Pence appears before the grand jury, sources tell ABC News.

April 28, 2023

A firm contracted by Trump's presidential campaign in November 2020 to investigate claims of voter fraud has been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating those claims, the founder of the firm tells ABC News.

Ken Block, the founder of Simpatico Software Systems, says he was subpoenaed to turn over documents related to his work with the Trump campaign. His firm was the second one hired by the campaign that reported it found no widespread evidence of voter fraud.

June 6, 2023

ABC News reports that Trump's last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has testified before the grand jury.

Sources say that Meadows answered questions on both Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents while he was out of office.

June 8, 2023

Trump is indicted on federal charges related to the special counsel's parallel probe into the former president's handling of classified information after leaving office.

Five days later, Trump pleads not guilty to the 37-count indictment, which accuses him of repeatedly refusing to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities.

June 26, 2023

ABC News reports that agents from the United States Secret Service have testified before the grand jury probing efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Sources say that agents provided testimony as part of the grand jury's probe into whether there were any crimes committed during the Jan. 6 attack.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

June 27, 2023

ABC News reports that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is expected to sit for an interview with special counsel investigators.

Raffensperger, the top election official in Georgia, was the recipient of Trump's infamous phone call in January 2021, during which the then-president asked Raffensperger to "find" the exact number of votes he needed to win the state.

July 13, 2023

ABC News reports that among those who have testified before the grand jury are Trump's son-in-law and former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and former top Trump aide Hope Hicks.

July 16, 2023

Smith informs Trump by letter that he is a target in his investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The letter, which sources say was transmitted to Trump's attorneys, indicates that an indictment of the former president could be imminent.

July 18, 2023

ABC News reports that special counsel prosecutors have contacted officials in Nevada, Wisconsin and Arizona as part of 2020 election probe.

Those contacted include Republican Doug Ducey, the former Arizona governor who Trump had pressured to overturn Arizona's results following the 2020 election, according to sources.

A Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesperson tells ABC News that the state's chief elections official met with federal investigators in April regarding the probe.

July 20, 2023

ABC News reports that at least one more witness, Trump aide Will Russell, is expected to appear before the grand jury.

July 27, 2023

Trump attorneys John Lauro and Todd Blanche meet with Smith's team as a potential indictment of the former president looms, sources tell ABC News.

The lawyers are there to make the case for why they believe Trump shouldn't be indicted. Smith is present for the meeting, sources say.

Aug. 1, 2023

Trump is indicted on charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by allegedly enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors" targeting several states; using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations"; trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results"; and doubling down on false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot ensued -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and stay in power.

The sweeping indictment, which also includes six alleged unnamed co-conspirators, charges Trump with four felony counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.

Trump, speaking to ABC News, describes the new charges as a "pile-on" and says "it's election interference" meant to keep him from winning back the presidency.

Aug. 3, 2023

Trump, appearing in a Washington, D.C., courtroom, pleads not guilty to all counts in the special counsel's Jan. 6 indictment. A hearing before Judge Tanya Chutkan, the judge assigned to preside over the trial, is scheduled for Aug. 28 -- five days after the first GOP primary debate.

"This is a very sad day for America," Trump says following his court appearance. "This is a persecution of a political opponent."

Aug. 4, 2023

Smith asks the court for a protective order to prevent "the improper dissemination or use of discovery materials" so prosecutors can begin providing discovery to Trump's legal team in the case.

The filing cites a social media post by Trump in which the former president says, "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!" -- a message the Trump campaign says is aimed at political interest groups.

Aug. 9, 2023

ABC News reports that a newly revealed memo from Dec. 6, 2020, details a plan by Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro to pursue slates of supposedly "alternate" electors in order to prevent Biden from amassing 270 electoral votes.

Prosecutors say Chesebro was working with the Trump legal team to find ways to challenge the outcome of the election in order to keep Trump in office.

Aug. 10, 2023

Smith says in a court filing that he's seeking a start date of Jan. 2 for Trump's trial. He estimates it will take no longer than four to six weeks to present his case to a jury in Washington, D.C., according to the filing.

Judge Chutkan is expected to set an initial date for the trial when the parties meet for a status conference on Aug. 28.

Aug. 11, 2023

Judge Chutkan issues a protective order against Trump following a hearing in which she cautions him against making "inflammatory statements" about the case and says that his First Amendment rights are "not absolute."

Smith had sought the protective order to prevent "the improper dissemination or use of discovery materials" his team was preparing to turn over to Trump's attorneys for them to prepare Trump's defense. The judge's ruling, issued following the hearing, prohibits the disclosure of a range of "sensitive" materials, including all recordings, transcripts, interview reports and related exhibits shared by the special counsel.

Aug. 17, 2023

Trump's legal team requests that Judge Chutkan schedule the trial for his federal 2020 election interference case for April of 2026 -- more than two and a half years away.

The attorneys cite the large amount of discovery provided to them by the government -- roughly 11.5 million pages of evidence -- and say in their filing that if they began reviewing the documents today, "we would need to proceed at a pace of 99,762 pages per day to finish the government's initial production by its proposed date for jury selection."

Aug. 28, 2023

Judge Chutkan, at the end of a hearing on the matter, orders the start of Trump's trial on March 4, 2024 -- two months after prosecutors had requested but more than two years before Trump's proposed start date.

The judge closes the hearing by again cautioning parties that she is "watching carefully" for any actions taken that might impact the jury pool in Washington, D.C.

Sept. 11, 2023

Trump files a motion seeking to have Judge Chutkan recused and disqualified from the case, citing past cases she oversaw for individuals charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, which they argue shows she "suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned."

Sept. 15, 2023

ABC News reports that the special counsel has requested that Judge Chutkan impose a "narrowly tailored" order restricting Trump from making public statements that they argue could "present a serious and substantial danger of prejudicing" the case.

Sept. 26, 2023

Attorneys for Trump, in a court filing, oppose the special counsel's request for a gag order, calling it an affront to Trump's First Amendment rights as he campaigns for president.

Sept. 28, 2023

Trump's legal team asks the judge overseeing his case for a two-month extension for the filing of pretrial motions, beyond the current deadline of Oct. 9.

Oct. 5, 2023

Trump files a motion to dismiss his case, citing what his lawyers claim is his "absolute immunity" from prosecution for actions taken while serving in the nation's highest office.

Oct. 10, 2023

The special counsel's team urges Judge Chutkan to implement protections for potential jurors, citing Trump's conduct on social media regarding people involved in his various legal battles.

Oct. 16, 2023

Judge Chutkan grants part of the government's request for a narrowly tailored gag order against Trump, prohibiting him from making or "reposting" statements "publicly targeting" the special counsel and his staff, as well as Chutkan's staff and the staff of other D.C. district court personnel.

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The ruling also bars him from making statements about potential witnesses in the case and the substance of their potential testimony.

Oct. 20, 2023

Judge Chutkan temporarily halts the limited gag order she had placed on Trump, following Trump's appeal of her order.

Oct. 24, 2023

ABC News reports that former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith's team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The sources say Meadows informed Smith's team that he repeatedly told Trump in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election that the allegations of significant voting fraud coming to them were baseless, and that Trump was being "dishonest" with the public when he first claimed to have won the election only hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, 2020, before final results were in.

Oct. 26, 2023

In court filing, the special counsel's team accuses Trump of threatening Mark Meadows in a social media post after ABC News reported that sources said Meadows received immunity to speak with investigators. Smith's team tells Judge Chutkan in the filing that the alleged threat is just one more example of why a limited gag order in the case is needed.

Oct. 30, 2023

Judge Chutkan, responding to Trump's social media comments regarding Mark Meadows, reinstates the limited gag order she imposed on Trump after temporarily halting it earlier in the month. Trump then lashes out at the judge, calling her a "TRUE TRUMP HATER" and criticizing her ability to preside over a fair trial.

Nov. 2, 2023

Trump asks the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency stay of Judge Chutkan's limited gag order.

The special counsel, in the meantime, opposes a request from Trump's attorneys to delay all proceedings in the case pending a resolution of their motion to dismiss the case on immunity grounds.

Nov. 6, 2023

In a lengthy filing in response to Trump's motions to dismiss the case, the special counsel disputes Trump's argument that he can't be criminally charged in the case given that he was acquitted by the Senate following his impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Nov. 20, 2023

A Washington, D.C., appeals court, in a hearing, presses prosecutors with the special counsel's office and attorneys for Donald Trump over the viability of Judge Chutkan's currently-paused limited gag order.

The judges do not immediately issue a decision on whether the limited gag order should be reinstated.

Nov. 27, 2023

ABC News reports that former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking with the special counsel's team earlier this year, told investigators how, in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump surrounded himself with "crank" attorneys, espoused "un-American" legal theories, and almost pushed the country toward a "constitutional crisis," according to sources.

The sources said Pence -- who could take the stand against Trump should Smith's election interference case go to trial as planned in March -- also told investigators he's "sure" that, in the days before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, he informed Trump that he still hadn't seen evidence of significant election fraud, but that Trump was unmoved, continuing to claim the election was stolen.

Dec. 5, 2023

Writing that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was "exactly what the defendant intended," the special counsel, in a court filing, details additional evidence he plans to introduce at trial, including evidence of Trump's alleged state of mind as his supporters carried out the attack.

Dec. 8, 2023

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upholds Judge Chutkan's limited gag order in the special counsel's case against Trump, which prohibits him from making public statements about potential witnesses in the case as well as attorneys and court personnel.

Dec. 10, 2023

The special counsel's team asks the court to deny Trump's request to halt all proceedings in the case pending their appeal of Judge Chutkan's presidential immunity order, urging the judge to do all she can to make sure the March 4 trial date isn't delayed.

Dec. 11, 2023

Special counsel Jack Smith's team asks the Supreme Court to step in and decide the issue of presidential immunity regarding Trump's federal election interference charges, and hours later the court says it will consider the request on an expedited basis.

The move could represent an enormous risk for Smith, whose entire case against Trump could hinge on a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that could -- for the first time in American history -- determine whether a former U.S. president can be prosecuted for actions taken while in office.

Dec. 13, 2023

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan agrees to Trump's request to stay proceedings in the case while the appeals process plays out. Special counsel Jack Smith's team had opposed an all-out stay, saying they felt certain filings could still move forward to keep the case on track for its March 4 trial date.

Dec. 20, 2023

Attorneys for Trump ask the Supreme Court to stay out of the legal debate over presidential immunity and reject the special counsel's request for expedited consideration of the issue, urging the justices to allow a federal appeals court to consider the matter first.

Dec. 21, 2023

In a court filing, the special counsel reiterates his view that the Supreme Court must immediately review the question of Trump's immunity, writing that "The charges here are of the utmost gravity."

Dec. 22, 2023

The Supreme Court denies the special counsel's request to immediately take up Trump's claims of immunity from prosecution in the case, allowing a federal appeals court to hear the matter first.

The decision effectively keeps the Supreme Court out of the case for the time being and could potentially delay the case's March 4 trial date.

Dec. 27, 2023

Special counsel Jack Smith, in a filing, asks Judge Chutkan to bar Trump from raising at trial what Smith describes as "irrelevant" claims that President Biden ordered Trump to be prosecuted and that others are to blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Jan. 4, 2024

Lawyers for Trump ask Judge Chutkan to hold special counsel Jack Smith and members of his team in contempt of court for what they claim are "violations" of the current stay of the case as the appeals process plays out. The attorneys argue that Smith's belief that only "deadlines" in the case are currently stayed -- and not the filing of papers -- is false.

Jan. 7, 2024

ABC News reports that the special counsel's team has uncovered previously undisclosed details about Trump's refusal to help stop the Jan. 6 attack as he sat watching TV inside the White House, according to sources familiar with what Smith's team has learned during its probe.

Jan. 9, 2024

A three-judge panel in the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals hears arguments on Trump's efforts to have his case dismissed based on his claim of presidential immunity. With Trump in attendance, his attorney D. John Sauer argues that a president can only be criminally prosecuted if they were to be impeached and convicted first.

Special counsel attorney James Pearce counters that, "If, I understood my friend on the other side to say here, a president orders a SEAL team to assassinate a political rival and resigned, for example before an impeachment, it's not a criminal act. I think that is extraordinarily frightening future."

Jan. 16, 2024

The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects an effort by Twitter to appeal a ruling that allowed special counsel Jack Smith to access records from Trump's Twitter account as part of his federal election interference probe.

Jan. 18, 2024

Judge Chutkan rejects an effort by Trump to have the special counsel held in contempt for making additional filings in the case after she had issued a stay of the proceedings -- however, she orders that all parties in the case are forbidden from making any further substantive filings without first seeking permission from her.

Jan. 23, 2024

The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denies Trump's request to take up his appeal of the limited gag order placed on him in the case. The ruling clears the way for Trump to seek to appeal the issue to the Supreme Court if desired.

Feb. 2, 2024

Judge Chutkan postpones the March 4 start date for Trump's federal election interference trial, saying she will set a new trial date after the Court of Appeals resolves the question of Trump's presidential immunity.

Feb. 6, 2024

Writing that "We reject all three potential bases for immunity both as a categorical defense to federal criminal prosecutions of former Presidents and as applied to this case in particular," a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals rejects Trump's claim of presidential immunity as it pertains to his federal election interference case.

Feb. 12, 2024

Trump files an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to stay the appeals court decision in order to allow the appellate process to play out.

Feb. 13, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court, responding to Trump's request that it stay the appeals court decision that rejected his claim of absolute immunity in this Jan. 6 case, sets a deadline of Feb. 20 for special counsel Jack Smith to file his response to Trump's request.

Feb. 14, 2024

Special counsel Jack Smith, in a filing, urges the Supreme Court to deny Trump's request to stay his Jan. 6 case from moving forward as Trump appeals his claim that he should be immune from prosecution. Smith asks that if the court does intend to hear Trump's appeal, that they grant the review now and go into an expedited briefing schedule that would have them issue their ruling during this term.

Feb. 28, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will take up the question of whether Trump can claim sweeping presidential immunity in his Jan. 6 case, with oral arguments scheduled for the week of April 22. The move further delays Trump's prosecution, which was already paused while he was pressing his immunity appeal in the lower courts.

March 19, 2024

Trump files a brief with the Supreme Court making his formal argument for why he should be granted absolute presidential immunity from criminal prosecution in his Jan. 6 case, for which the court will hear oral arguments on April 25.

April 8, 2024

The special counsel, in a filing, urges the Supreme Court to reject Trump's appeal that claims he should be immune from prosecution in the Jan. 6 case, arguing that the former president has put forward a "novel and sweeping" theory of immunity that lacks any historical precedent and refutes the vision of the country that the founders intended.

ABC News' Soo Rin Kim, Laura Romero, Lucien Bruggeman, Olivia Rubin, Will Steakin and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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