Trump is about to be indicted and he knows it.
People close to the [former] president have discussed with him what we think is going to happen soon, and how he and everyone else needs to be ready for it…it would be crazy not to. (Vanity Fair)
DEMAND LETTER TO GARLAND
Former President Trump’s lawyers have asked for a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland as a Justice Department investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago shows signs of winding down, AP reports.
Defense attorneys in high profile cases want to meet with prosecutors to try to get them to show their hand and see if there is a way to avoid indictment or talk the prosecutor into lesser charges. Prosecutors want to hear what the defense was going to say because that helps them prepare for the likely defense that will be offered in the trial and understand what additional investigation might need to be done before indicting. Most defendants in Trump’s situation would want their lawyers to engage in a conversation to wheedle some sort of compromise out of the prosecutor if they could do that by pointing out the weaknesses in the case or the strong defenses that would be raised at trial.
In this case, Trump’s lawyers must be getting pushed by Trump to assault the prosecutor. The letter sounded like Trump had dictated it. It was less of an ask than a demand and an accusation. Far from making nice with the prosecutor, as most defense lawyers would do in a situation like this, the letter was an assault on Jack Smith. Since the letter was also pointedly made public, because it was sent to GOP lawmakers who support Trump, we also have to assume Trump is trying to maintain his political edge with his base by sounding strong in the face of coming headwinds. Here is the essence of the letter:
“No President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion. We request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors.” (Washington Post)
Trump must be freaking out about what is coming. This will be his SECOND criminal indictment. (The first was the 34 count financial fraud case brought by the New York States Attorney, Alvin Bragg).
When it comes to the Mar-a-Lago documents that Trump refused to return, Smith’s team has now had every conceivable witness come into the grand jury to testify. (Wall Street Journal) The activity of the grand jury has reportedly wound down. That is another tell that the inquiry is coming to its conclusion.
STATE OF MIND EVIDENCE EXPOSED BY WASHINGTON POST
One more tell that an indictment is imminent is that damning information revealing Trump’s state of mind has been reported in the press. Washington Post reports new information that witnesses have testified to and/or evidence has been revealed to the grand jury showing that Trump moved and secreted certain documents knowingly and intentionally right before the DOJ came to Mar-a-Lago by invitation to retrieve documents.
Washington Post reported that on June 2, 2022, the day one of Trump’s lawyers contacted the Justice Department to say that officials were welcome to come to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the classified documents the department had subpoenaed, two of Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers. The next day, when FBI agents arrived, Trump’s lawyers gave them 38 documents, said they had conducted a “diligent search,” and claimed that all the relevant documents had been turned over. Yet, when FBI agents conducted a search two months later, they found more than 100 additional classified documents.
The timing of the moved boxes suggests that Trump was deliberately hiding certain documents. The Washington Post article also says that more than one witness has told prosecutors that Trump sometimes kept classified documents out in the open and showed them to people. (Heather Cox Richardson)
According to the Post, Jack Smith’s team has also found evidence that before Trump was subpoenaed—but well after the government had started asking for the documents to be returned—he conducted a “dress rehearsal” for moving documents he didn’t want to give back. And, that he “at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others,” according to people familiar with the matter. Prosecutors also reportedly said in an August filing they had evidence that “obstructive conduct” took place in response to the May 2022 subpoena.(Washington Post)
Walt Nauta, a loyal assistant who works for Trump at Mar-a-Lago, was identified as the person who unlocked the storage room and kept control over the area where the documents were kept. He refuses to cooperate with the government and may himself be heading for an indictment. If I were the prosecutor in this case I would want to indict Nauta and then see if he would turn states evidence in exchange for leniency. This is the guy who has the inside story about Trump’s intentions. However, he might not be needed since Smith’s team has interviewed Nauta’s assistants and they might be able to provide sufficient evidence about Trump’s orders to prevent the DOJ from obtaining documents.
CRIME FRAUD EXCEPTION- TRUMP ASKED HIS LAWYER FOR ADVICE ABOUT HOW TO COMMIT A CRIME
Evan Corcoran, one of Trump’s attorneys was forced to testify before the grand jury about the goings on at Mar-a-Lago.
Corcoran had been ordered to appear and answer questions about his interactions with former President Donald Trump under the “crime fraud” exception, meaning he could not assert attorney-client privilege to avoid testifying about their discussions. (NBC)
In other words, a district court judge who reviewed the evidence determined that Corcoran and Trump engaged in actions that pierce the attorney-client privilege. Judge Howell removed the special protection most defendants get – to be able to speak openly to their lawyer and not have those conversations revealed to the grand jury. The matter was appealed and Trump lost that appeal. So there must be strong evidence we will learn about eventually that Trump was trying to use or did use Corcoran to get advice about how to commit the crime of obstruction.
Fortunately, Corcoran wrote copious detailed notes describing everything he observed related to the documents at Mar-a-Lago even including Trump’s facial expressions. That information will be valuable for Special Counsel Smith in proving Trump’s guilt.
Bloomberg News anticipates an indictment after Memorial Day.
Wall Street Journal also reports that the probe is ending but does not predict an indictment.
Sorry, WSJ, it is hard to believe that there will not be an indictment of Trump in the documents probe given all of the information we already know publicly about what Jack Smith knows. And that doesn’t include all that Jack Smith knows that we don’t yet know.
TRUMP’S WEAK DEFENSE
Trump will try to draw a parallel between his acts and those of Joe Biden and Mike Pence who also had confidential documents at their homes when they should not have had them there. But the crime DOJ is deeply concerned about is not having these documents in an unsecured location… the big no no is hoarding the documents, knowing they were supposed to be returned but not returning them and failing to do that consciously with knowledge that they must be returned to the National Archives. The evidence we already know about proves up the crime of obstruction and could also lead to charges under the Espionage Act. It looks like Smith will be able to show that Trump secreted the documents, moved them to keep them hidden from agents that were coming to retrieve for them, and tried to pretend he did not have them but was informed many times over that they needed to be returned. Still he refused. On top of that he reportedly showed our secret documents to other people- donors and visitors at Mar-a-Lago. Who were these other people anyhow? Could they have been spies? Chinese or Saudi state actors wanting to hurt our country?
Smith also seems to be investigating the underlying reason why Trump wanted these documents. It is important in a crime like this, especially with a high profile defendant, to be able to explain to the jury what the motivation was for failing to return the documents.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago has expanded to include inquiries into former President Donald Trump’s business dealings while in office. NBC News Correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, and Politico White House Bureau Chief Jonathan Lemire join Andrea Mitchell to break down what this and other legal challenges could mean for Trump. “If he turned around and gave these to anyone to use them for leverage for business deals, that would be a whole other crime, a serious one,” Litman says. “And it’s, sort of as Smith did a couple of weeks ago, opening a new area about fundraising. So I think it mainly shows that he’s leaving no stone unturned.” (MSNBC)
TRUMP’S LEGAL TEAM IN DISARRAY
One more tell that indictment is imminent is that Trump’s legal team is in disarray and his top lawyer just left.
A key lawyer for former President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was leaving the legal team, a move that comes as a special counsel investigation into the retention of classified documents shows signs of being in its final stages. (PBS)
Speaking to CNN on Saturday, attorney Timothy Parlatore, who recently left the Trump legal team, blamed infighting and one fellow lawyer in particular for his departure. And he seemed to warn of the problems that that lawyer, Boris Epshteyn, is creating for Trump’s defense. Meanwhile, former top Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb went so far as to predict that Trump “will go to jail” in the classified-documents case, while also citing the Trump team’s poor handling of it. (CNN)
WHAT MOTIVATES TRUMP?
Trump always wants to make money and dominate (have power). These are two obsessive driving motivations that set in motion much of what this guy does in his life. Money and power are his North Stars. He is not empathic. He is not altruistic. He is never interested in helping others. No. His underlying driving obsessive need is to prove he is the biggest, most powerful, richest winner out there. He thinks that makes him admirable and lovable.
So, the question is how he used the documents to get something for himself. The question is not DID he leverage them to get a deal of some kind, it is HOW did he use them or want to use them to compromise someone or get something of value for himself? This information is not necessary to prove up an obstruction case but would be important to help a jury understand why Trump did what we all know he did by hiding, hoarding, secreting and refusing to return confidential and top secret documents he took to Mar-a-Lago.
If Jack Smith needs more time to get conclusive evidence or information exposing motivation then we will not see an indictment after Memorial Day. But if he already has enough to expose Trump’s underlying motivation to obstruct, then I would expect an indictment as soon as next week.
UPDATE June 1, 2023
Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a 2021 meeting in which former President Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack on Iran, CNN reports.
- Why it matters: The recording — made at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J. — indicates he understood he took classified papers from the White House. That undercuts his claims he had declassified them. (CNN)
This tape could be the final nail in Trump’s coffin because it goes to his state of mind, the hardest element for prosecutors to prove up.