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In classified docs case, Trump tantrum follows lawyers’ DOJ meeting

Donald Trump's lawyers received the Justice Department meeting they wanted, but their client's latest tantrum suggested it didn't go especially well.


UPDATE (June 6, 2023, 5:15 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with additional information about grand jury proceedings in special counsel Jack Smith's classified documents probe, including a report that the Washington, D.C., grand jury may be on hiatus.

Facing the very real prospect of a criminal indictment, Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a strange letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland two weeks ago, requesting a meeting “to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by [special counsel Jack Smith] and his prosecutors.” The oddly unprofessional correspondence did not persuade the nation’s chief law enforcement official to sit down with the former president’s defense counsel.

That said, as NBC News reported, Trump’s lawyers were welcomed to Main Justice yesterday.

NBC News has confirmed that part of Trump’s legal team met with special counsel Jack Smith and others at Justice Department headquarters in Washington on Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Three of Trump’s lawyers — James Trusty, John Rowley and Lindsey Halligan — were at the Justice Department and met with the group of Justice Department officials, which included at least one other career prosecutor.

Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco were not in attendance, the defense attorney’s request notwithstanding.

While it’s difficult to say with confidence what was said behind closed doors, there’s little to suggest the conversation went well: Shortly after his lawyers left the Justice Department, Trump turned to his social media platform to publish the latest in a series of online tantrums.

“HOW CAN DOJ POSSIBLY CHARGE ME, WHO DID NOTHING WRONG, WHEN NO OTHER PRESIDENT’S [sic] WERE CHARGED,” the Republican wrote in an all-caps harangue, which was filled with nonsense, including bogus claims about — wait for it — Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The fact that the former president threw a fit is not altogether new or interesting, but it’s the context that matters: Had the Justice Department meeting gone well, it’s unlikely such an outburst would’ve soon followed.

This was not, however, the only element of note in the larger controversy. As the investigation into the documents scandal advances, here are several other angles of note:

The grand jury in D.C.: Previous reporting suggested the grand jury in the nation's capital investigating Trump's classified documents scandal was expected to meet again this week. However, The New York Times reported Tuesday that the grand jury stopped hearing witness testimony in recent weeks, citing three people familiar with its workings, and may be on hiatus.

The grand jury in Florida: This is a new one. NBC News also reported that a grand jury is expected to hear witness testimony this week in Florida as part of the special counsel’s classified documents case.

Is Trump still hiring lawyers? Amidst drama within the former president’s legal team, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Trump “has been exploring options to expand his legal defense team” as the case progresses. The former president and his operation are apparently focusing specifically on finding defense lawyers with federal trial experience, which seems like a big hint about their expectations.

Blame the pool guy? This is new, too. In accounts that have not been independently confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, The New York Times and CNN reported that prosecutors in this case “are also interested in an incident from October in which a worker drained a pool at Mar-a-Lago, causing water damage in a room that contained computer servers that held digital logs for the compound’s security cameras.”

We haven’t quite reached the the-dog-ate-my-homework stage of Trump’s legal defense, but I fear it may soon arrive.