A former federal prosecutor says that recent actions undertaken by newly appointed Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith indicate that the department is “on a path to charge” former President Donald Trump.
In November, Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee two DOJ inquiries — one relating to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the other concerning Trump’s improper transfer of thousands of government documents, including hundreds marked as classified, from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, following his departure from office.
Since Smith’s appointment, several former Trump aides — including two White House lawyers and Trump’s former adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller — have appeared before a federal grand jury in the January 6 investigation. Smith’s office has also issued subpoenas to local elections clerks in states where the Trump campaign had falsely alleged that fraud had cost him the presidential election.
In the Mar-a-Lago case, Smith’s office has attempted to bring forward contempt of court charges against Trump’s lawyers for failing to affirm that Trump has handed over all classified documents. (That attempt was rejected last week by a federal judge, who ordered both sides to resolve the matter on their own, without judicial intervention.)
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that these actions, among others, indicate that the DOJ is all but certain to bring charges against Trump.
Bharara also cited the acquisition of “seasoned prosecutors” to the inquiries following Smith’s appointment.
“I don’t think they would’ve left their former positions, both in government and private practice, unless there was a serious possibility that the Justice Department was on a path to charge,” Bharara said to host Chuck Todd, adding that a charge against Trump could “happen in a month.”
The prosecutors in both cases likely have compelling arguments suggesting that Trump is guilty of whatever charges they plan to bring against him, Bharara said.
“You generally do not proceed unless you have a great likelihood of success,” the former U.S. Attorney said. “But the prerequisite is that you believe that the person is guilty of the crime, right? And when you’re charging somebody in maybe the highest-stakes trial, in some ways, in history, because it’s the former president of the United States, you’ve got to have all your ducks in a row.”
In October, prior to Smith’s appointment, reporting from Bloomberg indicated that a number of DOJ prosecutors had already told Garland that they believed there was enough evidence to warrant indictments against Trump. At a minimum, they said, Trump’s attempts to hide classified documents at Mar-a-Lago could result in obstruction charges, though it’s likely he could be charged with other crimes as well.
While Trump and his loyalists continue to disparage investigations into his actions as political “witch hunts” — including investigations by the DOJ and the House January 6 committee, and state inquiries in New York and Georgia — the public supports the continuation of these inquiries. An NBC News poll from August, for example, found that 57 percent of Americans want investigations into Trump to continue.
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