The development in Trump documents show a campaign that is clouded by legal tangles
The Mar-a-Lago case: An investigation of a national security adviser around Trump during his term as a 2016 presidential official and possible prosecution in court
On October 13, Patel spent several hours before the grand jury at the US courthouse in Washington, DC, sources told CNN at the time. When approached then at the courthouse by CNN, one of his attorneys, Stanley Woodward, refused to say what Patel’s matter was about, and only confirmed that he represented the Trump adviser.
The immunity granted by a judge to any information that he gives to the investigation moves the DOJ closer to charging the case.
The decision of the court is not made public, even though a secret proceeding took place that resulted in the Justice Department subpoena and the court’s decision. He wouldn’t answer questions if he asserted his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination.
As CNN has previously reported, Patel is one of a handful of advisers around Trump after his presidency who could have legal risk related to the Mar-a-Lago situation, according to court records and sources, though it’s unclear if he is a target of the Justice Department probe.
He served as a national security and defense official during the Trump administration, and this summer became one of Trump’s designees to interact with the National Archives and the Justice Department as both agencies have tried to repossess classified records Trump kept from his presidency. He claimed in interviews that he witnessed Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency, and that he believes Trump should be allowed to release classified information.
The Mar-a-Lago documents case has continued grand jury activity, at the same time that the Justice Department is examining national security records pertaining to President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Now federal investigators are planning for a burst of post-election activity in Trump-related investigations. If Trump decides to run for president, his associates could face indictments, which could make the moves more complicated.
After the mid-terms, the focus will likely shift to the presidential race in four years. The Justice Department may be able to make important charging decisions soon, such as whether or not to bring charges against President Trump or other political activists, other sources said.
One defense attorney working on January 6 related matters said that they can crank up charges on almost anyone if they wanted to, and added that defense lawyers have no idea who will be charged.
Trump and his associates also face legal exposure in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State and expects to wrap her probe by the end of the year.
Special Counsels are not immune from political attacks. Both Robert Muller and John Durham were criticized for their investigations into Russia and the FBI.
An old guard of former prosecutors from the Southern District of New York was brought into the investigation along with David Rody, a defense lawyer who specialized in gang and conspiracy cases.
Rody, whose involvement has not been previously reported, left a lucrative partnership at the prestigious corporate defense firm Sidley Austin in recent weeks to become a senior counsel at DOJ in the criminal division in Washington, according to his LinkedIn profile and sources familiar with the move.
The DC Attorney General’s Office is Getting Closer to the Truth: A New Look at Trump and the Indictment of Michael Garland
The January 6 investigations are being handled by a growing team of prosecutors in the DC US Attorney’s Office.
A handful of other prosecutors have joined the January 6 investigations team, including a high-ranking fraud and public corruption prosecutor who has moved out of a supervisor position and onto the team, and a prosecutor with years of experience in criminal appellate work now involved in some of the grand jury activity.
The Attorney General will decide whether to charge Trump or his associates, and it is his job to make that decision since his tenure as a judge gave him some distance from partisan politics.
Several former prosecutors believe the facts exist for a potentially chargeable case. But Garland will have to navigate the politically perilous and historic decision of how to approach the potential indictment of a former President.
In March, Garland avoided answering a CNN question about the prospect of a special counsel for Trump-related investigations, but said that the Justice Department does “not shy away from cases that are controversial or sensitive or political.”
Garland said that they must avoid any partisan elements of their decision making. “That is what I’m intent on ensuring that the Department decisions are made on the merits, and that they’re made on the facts and the law, and they’re not based on any kind of partisan considerations.”
Garland’s tough decisions go beyond Trump. The long-running investigation of Hunter Biden, son of the president, is nearing conclusion, people briefed on the matter say. There is a decision to be made about the investigation of Florida’s Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
“They’re not going to charge before they’re ready to charge,” one former Justice Department official with some insight into the thinking around the investigations said. There will be added pressure on the DOJ to get through the review of cases earlier than usual.
There is a quiet period around the midterm election, and that’s something Willis wants to bring witnesses into in the coming weeks. CNN indictments are expected to come as soon as December, according to sources.
Several witnesses, including Lindsey Graham and MarkMeadows, have tried to fight off subpoenas from the state of Georgia in the probe into efforts to interfere with the 2020 election.
How those disputes resolve in Georgia – including whether courts force testimony – could improve DOJ’s ability to gather information, just as the House Select Committee’s January 6 investigation added to DOJ’s investigative leads from inside the Trump White House.
The unique and extraordinary legal tangle surrounding Trump means that a third straight US election will be tainted by controversies that will drag the FBI and the Justice Department further into a political morass. (President Joe Biden is also facing a special counsel investigation over his handling of documents from his time as vice president, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s eying a 2024 bid, is under DOJ review for similar issues.) The Hillary Clinton email flap was one of many investigations into the Trump campaign and his claims about voter fraud.
It’s not known what the people who found the documents said to the grand jury. The ex-president is being investigated for both Espionage Act violations and obstruction of justice related to the documents.
The outcome of the intelligence review of those documents may determine if criminal charges will be filed, according to one source familiar with the Justice Department’s approach.
Two people who were hired to search four of Donald Trump’s properties, after a FBI search warrant was executed at one of them in the summer, were each interviewed for three hours last week. One source familiar with the investigation said that they didn’t decline to answer any questions but that the extent of information they offered the grand jury remained unclear.
They were hired to search a number of places, including Trump’s Bedminster golf club, Trump Tower in New York and an office location in Florida, months after FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. The grand jury was offered a lot of information but it is not clear how much, at least according to one source.
Another source said investigators are trying to determine if there is an electronic paper trail in regards to classified documents, by getting access to computers.
This remains the case, despite the political gift handed to Trump with the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home and at a Washington office he once used that should have been handed back when he left the vice presidency. Some classified material was also found at Pence’s Indiana home.
Donald Trump is All Investigated, Not Mine: The Case for a Realistic and Disguise Grand Jury Campaign in the Mar-a-Lago Investigation
Special counsel Jack Smith and prosecutors who now work for him have used the federal grand jury nearly weekly to question witnesses in the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
On Saturday the former president began his first two-state campaign swing as he seeks a political comeback after he was twice impeached.
Then on Monday, Trump’s potential exposure – in two of his multiple strands of legal peril – appeared to grow, foreshadowing a campaign likely to be repeatedly punctuated by distractions from criminal investigations.
Still, Trump is a master of leveraging attempts to call him to account, legally and politically. He’s already built a central foundation of his new presidential quest around the idea that he’s being political persecuted by Justice Department investigations and what he claims are rogue Democratic prosecutors.
“We’re going to stop the appalling weaponization of our justice system. There’s never been a justice system like this. It’s all investigation, investigation,” the ex-president said on the trail over the weekend.
This is a message that may be attractive to some of Trump’s base voters who themselves feel alienated from the federal government and previously bought into his claims about a “deep state” conspiracy against him. It’s also a technique, in which a strongman leader argues that he is taking the heat so his followers don’t have to, that is a familiar page in the authority playbooks of demagogues throughout history.
Why are the documents found at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago uncovered by a former DOJ special counsel? The case of Ryan Goodman
Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the Department of Defense, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday that the latest development was a sign of an advanced special counsel investigation and could indicate that Smith was leaning toward indictments.
It seems like he is trying to lock in their testimony to make it harder for the prosecutors to get incriminating evidence against Trump at trial.
The investigation of an ex-president is always going to create a political furor. The fact that Trump is running for the White House again multiplies the stakes and means profound decisions are ahead for Attorney General Merrick Garland if evidence suggests Trump should be charged.
The grand jury report underscores that the investigation into Trump’s haul of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago is happening inside his own legal bubble.
Even if the cases have significant differences, these discoveries allowed Trump to claim that he was being unfairly treated. If Trump attempts to argue that he accidentally took documents to his home, he’ll be hampered by the fact that he claimed it was his and the government refused to give it back.
If there was any evidence that the President was peddling influence with classified documents, we would expand it. He went on to accuse Biden and his family of being close to people in the Chinese Communist party but did not give any evidence that they had anything to with classified documents. He left the impression that his committee was trying to condemn Biden while also treating Trump differently, the kind of double standard the GOP has claimed the DOJ is employing towards Trump.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer was, for example, asked by CNN’s Pamela Brown this weekend why he had no interest in the more than 325 documents found at Trump’s home but was fixated upon the approximately 20 classified documents uncovered in Biden’s premises by lawyers and an unknown number also found during an FBI search of the president’s home this month.
The investigations into Trump and Biden’s secret documents are not happening as a team. There isn’t an overlap between them in a legal sense. If the findings are made public, they will be in the same political uproar as each other.
Were Trump, for instance, to be prosecuted – over what so far appears to be a larger haul of documents and conduct that may add up to obstruction – and Biden is not, the ex-president would incite a firestorm of protest among his supporters. Even though the sitting president can be prosecuted, even if Biden or Trump are both running for president, it is hard to see how the political will to prosecute them would hold up.
The Secret Battle of the 2024 Presidential Witch Hunt: A High-Dimensional Case of Attorney-Client Confidence
The country got a reminder of what can happen to lower-ranking members of the federal workforce when secret material is taken home on Monday, as the political fallout from the classified documents furor deepened.
According to CNN, the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who stored files with classified information at his Florida home will plead guilty in February and receive a one year prison sentence.
Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents are asking a court to force his attorney Evan Corcoran to provide additional testimony, two sources familiar with the Justice Department’s motion told CNN.
The former president used his attorney in furtherance of a crime or fraud in order to overcome the shield ofattorney-client privilege, according to one source.
Corcoran declined to answer some questions before the grand jury that would have divulged his advice to Trump and their conversations, citing attorney-client privilege, the source added.
It was not clear whether the Justice Department had new evidence to argue that there was criminal planning, or whether prosecutors were resting on the same arguments they made last year. They had reason to believe federal records were concealed within the beach club, and they have been investigating how national security records were mishandled.
The move was meant to prevent the American people from returning President Trump to the White House and it was nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against him.
Special counsel Jack Smith is locked in at least eight secret court battles that aim to unearth some of the most closely held details about Donald Trump’s actions after the 2020 election and handling of classified material, according to sources and court records reviewed by CNN.
The outcome of these disputes could have far-reaching implications, as they revolve around a 2024 presidential candidate and could lead courts to shape the law around the presidency, separation of powers and attorney-client confidentiality in ways they’ve never done before.
The sheer number of grand jury challenges from potential witnesses is both a reflection of the scope of the special counsel’s investigation and a hallmark of Trump’s ultra-combative style in the face of investigations.
Investigations that implicate government officials often beget sealed court proceedings, because confidential grand jury witnesses become more likely to assert privileges that prompt prosecutors to ask judges to compel more answers, criminal law experts say.
A number of cases remain in court, either before the Chief Judge of the DC Circuit or above her in the appeals court. Most cases follow a similar pattern that involves grand jury investigations, where prosecutors sometimes use the court to enforce their subpoenas.
More challenges from subpoenaed witnesses – including former Vice President Mike Pence – are expected to be filed in the coming days, likely under seal as well. Pence may raise novel questions about the protections around the vice presidency.
I think we are in extraordinary times. Neil Eggleston was a White House counsel during the Clinton administration and argued for executive privilege in the Whitewater investigation.
In Whitewater, after the court in DC ruled that privilege claims wouldn’t hold up when a federal grand jury needed information, other witnesses shied away from trying to refuse to testify, Eggleston recalled. In Trump’s investigations witnesses are still trying to find out whether he still has confidentiality protections.
An appeal over whether Jacob and Short should be compelled to answer questions about Trump’s interactions around January 6 should have been dropped. Both went to the grand jury in DC and refused to give any answers because of Trump’s attempt to keep information from the jury. CNN previously confirmed that court orders caused them to testify a second time in October last year. They were both present at the grand jury a second time. The Trump team still has filed an appeal of Howell’s decisions.
Following the seizure of Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone in August in the January 6 investigation, lawyers for the congressman challenged the Justice Department’s ability to access data taken from the phone, citing protection around Congress under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause. Howell refused to keep the records from investigators, but an appeals court panel has blocked the DOJ from seeing the records so far, according to indications in the court record. The case will be argued in Washington on February 23. The circuit court also has a request from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal documents in the case.
Howell has released redacted versions of two attorney confidentiality decisions she made last year giving prosecutors access to emails between Perry and three lawyers – John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and Ken Klukowski – before January 6, 2021.
Clark tried to keep investigators from seeing the first draft of his memoir, which spoke of his efforts to help Trump at the DOJ. Clark had tried to mark the draft outline about his life as an attorney work product.
Grand jury transparency: What will the DOJ tell us about the special counsel’s office grand jury cases? — The case of the Robertson-Weinberg-Levitt-Stein-Howell
There are questions about how transparent the courts will be in relation to the special counsel’s office grand jury cases.
The grand jury investigations are not going to be revealed by the Justice Department, and they won’t admit it.
On Monday, they argued to Howell that with the intense public interest around the cases, there should be even more secrecy than when the court releases other records.
“To advance the policy goals underlying grand jury secrecy, it may well be necessary for a court to more frequently decline to release judicial opinions ancillary to grand jury investigations that are the subject of intense press attention as opposed to matters that have attracted little public attention,” lawyers from the DOJ’s civil division wrote.