Exclusive: Trump If they run in 2024, the DOJ is talking about special counsel.
As Donald Trump nears another presidential run after the midterm elections, Justice Department officials are discussing whether Trump’s nomination would create the need for a special counsel to oversee two sprawling federal investigations into the former president, sources familiar with the matter said. CNN
The Justice Department is training its probe with experienced prosecutors so it is ready for any post-medieval decision, including the unprecedented move to impeach a former president.
In the weeks leading up to the election, the Justice Department observed its usual quiet period of not taking any overt action that could have political consequences. But behind the scenes, investigators say Trump was Investigators have used powerful criminal subpoenas and secret court battles to compel the testimony of witnesses in both investigations into their efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the mishandling of national security documents stored at their Palm Beach home. .
Now federal investigators are planning a post-election crackdown on Trump-related investigations. This includes the indictment of Trump associates — steps that could become more complicated if Trump declares his candidacy for president.
“They can indict anybody if they want to,” said a defense attorney who works on January 6 related cases, adding that defense attorneys have no idea who will ultimately be indicted.
“This is the scary thing,” said the lawyer.
Trump and his allies face legal exposure in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis is investigating efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 election in the Peach State.
Declaring an active candidate for the White House is sure to spark political fire. And while no decision has been made on whether a special counsel will be needed in the future, DOJ officials have debated whether doing so could shield the Justice Department from accusations that the Joe Biden administration is targeting its chief political rival. CNN
After all, special recommendations are not immune to political attacks. Both former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and special counsel John Durham’s investigations into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation have drawn heavy criticism from their opponents.
The Justice Department declined to comment for this story.
The Justice Department has brought in a top-level adviser on the Trump investigations, according to people familiar with his activities.
Senior Justice officials have brought in David Raskin, a Kansas City-based federal prosecutor and national security expert, as well as David Roddy, a former prosecutor-defense attorney, to the investigation, looking to an old guard of former U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of New York. He specializes in gang and conspiracy cases and has worked extensively with government collaborators.
His involvement was previously unreported. Roddy left a lucrative partnership at the well-known corporate defense firm Sidley Austin in recent weeks to become a senior counsel in the DOJ’s criminal division in Washington, according to sources familiar with his LinkedIn profile and activities. .
The team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. is also growing as it goes about its day-to-day operations on Jan. 6 — even as the office’s insurgency targeting right-wing extremists continues to go to trial.
A handful of other prosecutors joined the investigative team Jan. 6, including a senior fraud and public corruption prosecutor who moved up from a supervisor position to join the team and now has years of experience in criminal appellate work. Some activity of the grand jury.
Taken together, the prosecutorial reshuffle represents a tough and snowball investigation into Trump and his close associates.
After Senate Republicans blocked his Supreme Court nomination in 2016, the decision to prosecute Trump or his allies will ultimately fall to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who President Joe Biden chose for the job because of his judicial distance from partisan politics. .
Many former prosecutors believe the facts are there for a case to be prosecuted. But Garland must navigate the politically dangerous and historic decision of how to approach the former president’s potential impeachment.
In March, Garland declined to answer CNN’s question about the special counsel’s role in the Trump-related investigations, but said the Justice Department “doesn’t avoid issues that are controversial or sensitive or political.”
“What we avoid and should avoid is any partisan element in our decisions,” Garland said. “That’s what I intend to do to ensure that the department’s decisions are made on the merits and are based on the facts and the law and are not based on any kind of bias.”
Garland’s tough decisions go beyond Trump. The long-running investigation into the president’s son, Hunter Biden, is nearing conclusion, people briefed on the matter said. Also waiting in the wings: the final decision on the investigation of Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, after the prosecutors advised on the charges against them.
The focus is on It won’t take long after the midterms to shift to the 2024 presidential race. That could encourage senior DOJ officials to make critical judicial decisions as soon as possible, including whether to indict Trump or other high-profile politicians, other sources familiar with the inner workings of the Justice Department said.
“They don’t indict before they’re ready to indict,” said one former Justice Department official with some insight into the thinking surrounding the investigations. But there will be “additional pressure to get cases through review” before the DOJ files charges beyond the usual five-year window.
Willis The issue could be complicated by the situation in Georgia, which is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Willis said she is seeking a special grand jury to complete the investigation by the end of the year.
Willis has observed her own version of quiet time around the midterm elections and will try to bring witnesses before a grand jury in the coming weeks. Sources previously told CNN that the lawsuit could come as early as December.
Key Trump allies, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, are among the witnesses who have tried to fight subpoenas by the state in an effort to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election.
How those disputes are resolved in Georgia — including whether courts can compel testimony — could improve the DOJ’s intelligence-gathering ability, as the House Select Committee’s Jan. 6 investigation into the leadership of the DOJ in the Trump White House added.
The months before the election did not give a little break from the political and legal activities around the investigation. The D.C. US attorney’s office—which still bears the brunt of the Jan. 6 investigation—has dealt with a high-profile burnout as prosecutors from more than 800 rioters on Capitol grounds face trial or face criminal charges. Still look to charge hundreds more.
Trump thwarted the DOJ’s efforts to keep things quiet in the weeks leading up to the election, leading to a series of headlines related to the investigation.
Trump’s legal team successfully set up a complex court-led process to determine whether thousands of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago are privileged and off-limits to investigators. But the Justice Department and the intelligence community have had access for weeks to about 100 records Trump allegedly kept in Florida.
The results of an intelligence review of those documents could determine whether criminal charges are filed, according to a source familiar with the Justice Department’s approach.
However, in both investigations, court proceedings under seal have never slowed, with the Justice Department attempting to compel at least five witnesses around Trump to testify in secret in a grand jury investigation in Washington, DC, CNN previously reported.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Trump adviser Kash Patel to testify before a grand jury investigating the handling of federal records at Mar-a-Lago, two people familiar with the investigation said.
D.C. District Court Judge Beryl Howell granted Patel immunity from prosecution in connection with any information he provides to the investigation — another important step that moves the Justice Department closer to possible prosecution of the case.