Special counsel Jack Smith and his team have spent months scrutinizing Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal, and the good news for the former president is that the investigatory phase appears to be nearing its end.
The bad news for the Republican is that it might very well be followed by a prosecutorial phase.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Smith “has all but finished obtaining testimony and other evidence in his criminal investigation,” and the recent flurry of grand jury interviews appeared to be part of an effort to “tie up loose ends.” The article added that Trump’s close associates are “bracing for his indictment.”
Evidently, so are his attorneys. The Associated Press reported overnight:
Lawyers for Donald Trump on Tuesday asked for a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland as a Justice Department investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents shows signs of winding down.
By any fair measure, it is a curious piece of confrontational correspondence, which the former president made no effort to hide, publishing a copy of the letter to his social media platform.
“We represent Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, in the investigation currently being conducted by the Special Counsel’s Office,” it read. “Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, and the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly. No President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion. We request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”
That’s it. That was the entire body of the letter.
Among its striking qualities is its fundamental lack of seriousness. There’s hardly a pretense that this is a professional request from officers of the court seeking an audience with the nation’s chief law enforcement official. Indeed, it’s not altogether clear whether the intended audience is Garland or the Republican base.
Politico’s Kyle Cheney added that the correspondence “has the vibe of something Trump dictated himself and that his lawyers worked to redraft into something resembling lawyering.”
It’d be overly generous to suggest they succeeded.
For now, we don’t yet know how or whether the attorney general will respond. For that matter, we don’t know what it is they’d talk about if he agreed to a meeting, since the Republican’s attorneys didn’t get around to explaining what they intend to say.
But while we wait to see what happens next, let’s not overlook one small detail at the bottom of the lawyers’ letter: The correspondence concluded, “cc: Representatives of Congress.”
Even that was odd phrasing. It didn’t specify which members, leaders, or relevant committees were supposed to receive a copy of the letter. Presumably, all 535 members on Capitol Hill should expect to see it soon.
And why did this stand out? Because Team Trump genuinely seems to believe that Congress can and should intervene in this case to prevent him from being indicted again. We know this for certain because the Republican’s lawyers sent a strange, 10-page letter to the House Intelligence Committee last month, insisting that a “legislative solution” by Congress is “required” to prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing the case further.
The letter proposed that the Justice Department “should be ordered to stand down.”
Trump reiterated the point a few days ago, publishing an online tantrum in which he argued that Congress should “demand” that federal prosecutors “stop the Witch Hunt against ‘TRUMP.’” (I don’t know why he referred to himself in third person and put his name in quotes.)
The former president, in other words, seems to think lawmakers have the authority to somehow swoop in and save him from another criminal charge. That won’t and can’t happen, but the “cc” in his letter hints at his desperation.