It appears the stage is being set once again for a new indictment against Donald Trump. Court activity is heating up with testimony and new evidence, investigators are moving forward with the probe and former U.S. president Donald Trump is entering battle mode, arguing that any charges against him would be an act of “political interference” to prevent him from returning to the White House. It’s the same buildup that was seen at the end of March, before Trump was indicted in the Stormy Daniels case. Only this time, he may be facing charges in a more serious case: for illegally keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence in Palm Beach.
Procedurally, the most recent important advance happened on Wednesday, when prosecutors informed Trump’s lawyers that the former president is the target of an investigation into his handling of confidential documents that he took from the White House and kept in his mansion.
Not that there was much doubt that Trump was under investigation: the FBI showed up at Mar-a-Lago with a search warrant in August last year, special counsel Jack Smith was appointed to take over the case and many other procedural steps were taken. But Wednesday’s notification is an indication that federal prosecutors are very likely to file charges against the former president and that the investigation is drawing to a close. What’s more, it’s been revealed that there are two grand juries examining the case, one in Washington and one in Miami.
On Monday, Trump’s lawyers met with Justice Department officials for nearly two hours. The lawyers were photographed before and after the meeting, but declined to provide details of the same. A message from Trump on his social media platform, however, provided a hint about what had happened: “How can the DOJ [Department of Justice] possibly charge me, who did nothing wrong, when no other president’s [sic] were charged,” he posted on his social network Truth Social, in all capital letters. “The greatest witch hunt of all time.”
On Wednesday, Trump went on the attack again. “Wow, this is turning out to be the greatest and most vicious instance of election interference in the history of our country,” he posted on Truth Social. “They are launching all of the many fake investigations against me right smack in the middle of my campaign, something which is unheard of and not supposed to happen. DOJ, FBI, New York A.G., New York D.A., Atlanta D.A. Fascists all!”
The former president also denied comments made by John Solomon, a journalist and Trump ally, who said an indictment was imminent and had already been communicated to Trump. “No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI,” he wrote on his social media site.
An indictment would be a big leap forward in the case that led the FBI to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. At the time, the content of the search warrant revealed that Trump was being investigated for possible crimes of obstruction of justice, concealment, unauthorized removal and willful retention of public documents and violations of the Espionage Act. These are crimes that can carry fines and jail sentences.
The FBI agents who searched Trump’s home found thousands of documents that the former president had kept there, including a hundred papers marked classified with varying degrees of confidentiality. The former president had failed to hand them over, as required by law, which justified the search.
In recent weeks, other information about the investigation has emerged. The Washington Post revealed that two Trump employees moved boxes of documents out of a storage room in Mar-a-Lago just a day before the Justice Department visited the former president’s residence with a request to collect the classified papers, which — in addition to the other evidence the special prosecutor has gathered — could support the charge of obstruction of justice.
Federal prosecutors also obtained a recording of a meeting in the summer of 2021, in which Trump acknowledges that he kept a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack on Iran, according to a CNN report. The recording is incriminating evidence against Donald Trump, who has sometimes claimed that he declassified all the documents that the FBI found during the search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
One of Trump’s common tactics is to try to delay and hamper an investigation with continued judicial appeals. Thanks to one of these appeals, a federal judge from Florida, Aileen M. Cannon — appointed by Trump himself shortly before leaving office — ordered the Department of Justice and the FBI to suspend the investigation into the papers found at Mar-a-Lago, until a “special master” could be appointed to oversee the review.
This call was made on the grounds that some documents could compromise Trump’s right to attorney-client privilege, or could be subject to executive privilege — a legal doctrine that shields some White House communications, even though Trump no longer holds public office.
A court, however, overturned the judge’s decision. Last September, a U.S. federal appeals court provisionally lifted the suspension of the investigation. Then, the three-judge panel halted the suspension entirely. “The law is clear,” the appeals court wrote in a verdict that reflected badly on Judge Cannon. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”
What’s more, the court pointed out that Judge Cannon did not have the jurisdiction to rule in the case. She had justified the move on the basis that an FBI search on the house of a former president was extraordinary. “It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” they countered. “To create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies “to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.”
While the probe into Trump continued, the Justice Department shelved the investigation into classified documents discovered at the home of former vice president Mike Pence after he left office. In a letter dated June 1, the Justice Department informed Pence that no criminal charges would be sought.
At the end of January, it emerged that the assistants of Trump’s former vice president discovered a dozen documents marked as classified in his Indiana home. Pence thus joined Trump and U.S. President Joe Biden on the list of officials who improperly took confidential documents to their private homes. In Biden’s case, as in Trump’s, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to take over the investigation.
In Pence’s case, it involved a “small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former Vice President at the end of the last administration,” Pence’s attorney wrote in a dated letter sent to the National Archives, the institution that must guard the documents and records when presidents and vice presidents leave office.
Trump, who has been convicted in a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, is also facing other legal probes. He has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records linked to hush money paid during the 2016 presidential elections, including a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged extramarital affair. The trial is set to begin in New York on March 25.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating whether Trump illegally interfered in Georgia’s 2020 election, has said she plans to announce in the coming months whether she will press charges. Willis has hinted that any possible indictments will be made in August. In a recent letter to county Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville, Willis suggested that he plan for staff to work remotely during the first three weeks of August, and asked that judges not schedule trials and in-person hearings during that time period for safety reasons.
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