Trump’s Lawyers Warn Him: Get Ready to Be Indicted by the Feds
Some of Donald Trump’s lawyers and top advisers have given the former president an unwelcome, if not unexpected message in recent weeks: You should expect to get indicted this year.
This month, several legal and political counselors to Trump have bluntly informed him that they expect the Justice Department to charge him in the criminal investigation into his hoarding of highly classified documents following the end of his presidency, two sources familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. The feds have also been probing whether or not Trump tried to obstruct the investigation prior to last year’s FBI raid of the ex-president’s Florida estate.
This, of course, comes on the heels of Trump’s indictment by local prosecutors in Manhattan in April for falsifying business records. Later this summer, officials in Fulton County, Georgia, are expected to decide whether or not to indict Trump on election fraud charges.
Trump’s attorneys and confidants have told Trump that though they view the federal investigation as “bullshit,” they would be surprised at this point if he wasn’t charged — particularly for alleged obstruction of justice — and have urged Trump to prepare for yet another historic fight. “Looks like they’re going for it,” one of the sources says. “People close to the [former] president have discussed with him what we think is going to happen soon, and how he and everyone else needs to be ready for it … it would be crazy not to.”
In at least one of these recent conversations, the former president angrily complained in response to these predictions that if the Department of Justice is going to charge him for keeping classified documents, then “what about Joe Biden?” according to the other person familiar with the matter. (A small number of classified documents have been discovered at a number of locations connected to Biden, including his garage; the Department of Justice has named a second special counsel to look into the matter.)
It is still unclear if the Justice Department will ultimately bring charges against Trump, though there are signs that this particular investigation is nearing its final phase. Some in the broader conservative movement have also braced for the possibility that Trump — currently the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — will face indictment across a range of investigations. These potential indictments stem from the Georgia probe into election interference to the Mar-a-Lago documents probe.
“I would just presume indictments in all the jurisdictions,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch and a close ally of Trump, said in a brief interview on Wednesday. “The Democrats are so nervous about Trump running, they’ll do anything.”
Trump’s own former attorney general, Bill Barr, also said in a recent interview that the documents case is the one Trump should be “most concerned about.”
“He wouldn’t get in trouble probably just for taking them. … The problem is what did he do after the government asked for them back and subpoenaed them,” Barr told CBS News. “And if there’s any games being played there, he’s going to be very exposed.”
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that two Trump employees moved boxes of papers last June, the day before DOJ lawyer Jay Bratt visited Mar-a-Lago with federal agents to collect classified material after a subpoena had been issued a month earlier. Investigators reportedly view the behavior as suspicious and a possible sign of obstruction.
Over the past week, both the special counsel’s office and Trump’s legal team have made public moves suggesting that the documents probe is moving toward a conclusion. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the special counsel investigation appears to be wrapping up after an exhaustive series of interviews and grand jury appearances by Trump aides and employees.
In another sign that a charging decision could be near, Trump himself posted a letter from his lawyers to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding a meeting “at your earliest convenience” to discuss the special counsel probe. Tim Parlatore, an attorney who represented Trump in the documents investigation before stepping away last week, told the Journal that the letter represented an attempt to head off charges but personally doubted the probe would result in charges.
Prosecutors have reportedly been looking into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice by withholding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence sought by the National Archives after his presidency ended. Since his appointment in November 2022, special counsel Jack Smith has obtained a stunning and rapid series of courtroom victories. Smith’s office persuaded a judge to force Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to appear before the jury and testify as a witness against his client under the crime-fraud exception, which waives attorney-client privilege in the event that legal advice is used “for the commission of a fraud or crime.”
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The probe first began after the National Archives sought to recover a set of missing boxes from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and discovered that the former president had retained classified documents at the Florida club. The revelation prompted a Justice Department subpoena to Trump for all outstanding classified documents and a certification from attorney Christina Bobb that the former president’s team had conducted a “diligent search” of the property. But investigators remained suspicious, and in August 2022, executed a search warrant, yielding more highly classified documents.
Trump has since claimed that he issued a blanket declassification order during his presidency and, as Rolling Stone reported, the FBI began grilling the former president’s National Security Council staffers about whether they’d heard of the alleged order. But as Barr, Trump’s former attorney general put it, “I don’t think that argument is gonna fly.”