Lawyers representing former President Donald Trump in the federal inquiry into his mishandling of government documents (including hundreds marked classified) met with Department of Justice (DOJ) officials on Monday, an action that could signal that the investigation may be ending soon, with an indictment decision from special counsel Jack Smith to come.
It’s unclear what the lawyers discussed with the DOJ, or what the nature of the visit entailed.
According to reporting from The Washington Post, it’s highly likely that the lawyers went to argue against the DOJ charging Trump over his retention of classified documents and other government materials at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, following his departure from the White House. Two Trump lawyers, John Rowley and James Trusty, who had sent a letter in May to Attorney General Merrick Garland alleging misconduct by Smith, were among those who went to the Justice Department on Monday.
That letter did not include details but rather made broad generalizations about how Trump believed Smith was being unfair to him.
The attempt by Trump’s lawyers to assert that he’s being treated unfairly implies that their legal strategy, at this point, is to rely on Garland somehow agreeing with them that Smith’s inquiry was conducted improperly. Smith will decide, after the grand jury makes a recommendation to him, whether to indict Trump over his mishandling of documents. Garland has the power to overturn Smith’s decision, if he indeed seeks to charge Trump, but only if Garland believes Smith acted improperly at some point during the investigation.
It’s not unusual for lawyers to meet with DOJ officials when a case is wrapping up, as many observers have opined this one may be doing. It is unusual, however, for lawyers to meet directly with an attorney general, and reporting from The New York Times indicated that Trump’s team of lawyers did not meet with Garland nor with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, making it less likely that the meeting was prompted by the letter sent weeks ago.
Two hours after their arrival at the DOJ, the Trump team of lawyers left, without speaking to reporters there about what was discussed.
There have been several signs as of late indicating that a decision on an indictment could be coming soon. After several weeks of not meeting, Smith decided to reconvene the grand jury this week — an action that could either mean there’s more evidence to present to them, or more likely, could mean that an indictment vote is set to happen.
A decision is likely to come soon, too, in order for the department to avoid a situation wherein a trial for Trump could happen at the height of the 2024 presidential election, as the former president is running for office.
Several legal minds, including two former federal prosecutors appearing on MSNBC on Sunday, have suggested that Trump will be indicted, based on the evidence that has been discussed publicly so far.
“We should be on indictment watch,” said former U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner.
“The case is so strong. You cannot imagine his getting away with this,” former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said in a separate interview with the network, adding that she believes Trump is “toast.”
Wine-Banks took note of recent reporting that revealed the DOJ has in its possession a recording of Trump speaking to others in July 2021 about at least one classified document he took from the White House, in which he admits he didn’t declassify it before doing so, contradicting a key defense he has made several times to the public regarding the investigation.
“There’s nothing as compelling as hearing a defendant in a criminal case say words that show his criminality,” Wine-Banks said.
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