As Donald Trump is about to start another presidential campaign after the midterm elections, Justice Department officials have discussed whether Trump’s candidacy could lead to the need for a special counsel to oversee a relationship with the former president, according to people familiar with the matter. Two massive federal investigations related to CNN.
The Justice Department has also staffed the investigation with seasoned prosecutors to prepare for any decisions beyond the midterms, including a potentially unprecedented move to indict the former president.
In the weeks leading up to the election, the Justice Department observed a traditional period of calm, of no public action that could have political consequences. But behind the scenes, investigators have been busy, using aggressive grand jury subpoenas and secret court battles to compel Trump to overturn his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his alleged mishandling of national security documents kept at his Palm Beach home. Witnesses testify.
Now, federal investigators are planning a series of post-election activities in the Trump-related investigation. That includes the possibility of indicting Trump associates — moves that could be further complicated if Trump announces his candidacy for president.
“They can bring charges against almost anyone if they want to,” said a defense attorney handling the Jan. 6 matter, adding that defense attorneys “don’t know” who will ultimately be charged.
“It’s a terrible thing,” the lawyer said.
Trump and his associates also face legal revelations in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Peach State election, which is expected to end by the end of the year her investigation.
Indicting an active White House candidate is sure to spark a political storm. While no decision has been made on whether a special counsel will be needed in the future, Justice Department officials have been debating whether doing so would shield the Justice Department from charges the Joe Biden administration has targeted against its chief political opponent, people familiar with the matter told reporters. CNN.
Of course, the special counsel is hardly immune to political attack. Both former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe have been heavily criticized by opponents.
The Justice Department declined to comment for this story.
The Justice Department has hired a think tank to provide high-level advice on the Trump investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.
Senior judicial officials have sought an investigation from a veteran guard in the former Southern District of New York prosecutor, bringing Kansas City federal prosecutor and national security expert David Ruskin and prosecutor-turned-defense attorney David Roddy into the probe. Specializes in gang and conspiracy cases and works extensively with government partners.
Roddy, who had not previously been reported to be involved, left the lucrative partnership of prominent corporate defense firm Sidley Austin in recent weeks to become the Justice Department’s Washington Criminal Division, according to his LinkedIn profile and sources familiar with the move. senior lawyer.
The team that handles the day-to-day work of the Jan. 6 investigation at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. is also growing — even as the office is on trial in a sedition case against right-wing extremists.
A handful of other prosecutors have joined the investigation team on 6 January, including a senior fraud and public corruption prosecutor who has been transferred from a supervisory position to the team, and a prosecutor with years of experience in criminal appeals work, Participated in some grand jury activities now.
All in all, the prosecutor’s reorganization signals a serious and snowballing investigation into Trump and his closest circle.
The decision on whether to bring charges against Trump or his associates will ultimately fall to Attorney General Merrick Garland, a position President Joe Biden chose after Senate Republicans blocked his bid in 2016. After the Supreme Court nomination, his tenure as a judge was at odds with partisan politics. .
Several former prosecutors believe there are facts about potential charging cases. But Garland will have to deal with the politically dangerous and historic decision of how to handle a potential indictment of the former president.
In March, Garland avoided answering CNN’s questions about the prospects of the special counsel in Trump-related investigations, but said the Justice Department “does not shy away from controversial, sensitive or political cases.”
“What we will and must avoid is any partisan element in our case decision-making,” Garland said. “That’s my intent to make sure the department’s decisions are made on the merits and based on the facts and the law, not any partisan considerations.”
Garland’s tough decision goes beyond Trump. The long-running investigation into the president’s son, Hunter Biden, is drawing to a close, people familiar with the matter said. Also waiting: Final decision on investigation of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz after prosecutors advised against the charges.
After the midterm elections, the focus may soon shift to the 2024 presidential race. Other sources familiar with the Justice Department’s inner workings said that could spur senior Justice Department officials to make key charging decisions soon, including whether to bring charges against Trump himself or other senior political activists.
“They’re not going to prosecute until they’re ready to prosecute,” said a former Justice Department official with some knowledge of the investigation’s thinking. “But there will be more pressure to pass scrutiny” cases before the typical five-year window in which the Justice Department must file charges.
The situation in Georgia could also complicate matters, where Willis is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election result there. Willis has said her goal is to form a special grand jury to complete the investigation by the end of the year.
Willis observed a quiet period of her own around the midterm elections and is seeking to bring witnesses before a grand jury in the coming weeks. Sources previously told CNN the indictment could be filed as early as December.
Key Trump allies, including the South Carolina senator. Lindsey Graham and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are among the witnesses trying to resist subpoenas in the state’s investigation into interference in Georgia’s 2020 election.
How these disputes are resolved in Georgia — including whether the courts will force testimony — could improve the Justice Department’s ability to gather information, just as the House select committee’s Jan. 6 investigation adds to the Justice Department’s trail inside the Trump White House .
The months leading up to the election offered little respite for the political and legal activity surrounding the investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. — still doing most of the work on the Jan. 6 investigation — has dealt with burnout in its ranks as prosecutors go to trial or secure more than 800 in the Capitol and still hope to charge more hundreds of dollars.
Trump also thwarted the Justice Department’s efforts to remain silent in the weeks leading up to the election, leading to a steady stream of headlines related to the investigation.
Trump’s legal team successfully established a complex court-directed process to sort through thousands of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago to determine whether they were privileged and off-limits to investigators. But the Justice Department and the intelligence community have for weeks been able to access about 100 records Trump kept in Florida that were marked classified.
An intelligence review of the documents could determine whether criminal charges will be brought, according to a source familiar with the Justice Department’s approach.
In both investigations, however, court secrecy never subsided, with CNN previously reporting that the Justice Department sought to compel at least five witnesses close to Trump in their grand jury investigation in Washington, D.C. More information is provided in secret.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Trump adviser Cash Patel to testify before a grand jury investigating Mar-a-Lago’s handling of federal records, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Judge Beryl Howell of the DC District Court granted Patel immunity from prosecution for any information he provided to the investigation — another important step in bringing the Justice Department closer to a possible prosecution of the case.