EXCLUSIVE: DOJ potential special counsel if Trump runs in 2024


Washington
CNN

Like Donald Trump inches closer And then to start another presidential election Mid-term electionsJustice Department officials have debated whether Trump would create the need for a special counsel to oversee the two candidates. Widespread federal investigations Sources familiar with the matter, close to the former president, told CNN.

The Justice Department staffs its investigations with experienced prosecutors, so it is prepared for any decisions after the interim, including the unprecedented move to impeach a former president.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the Judiciary has observed a traditional period of calm, with no overt moves that could have political consequences. But behind the scenes, investigators have been busy using aggressive grand jury subpoenas and secret court battles to compel testimony from witnesses in both Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election and his alleged mishandling of national security documents kept at his Palm Beach home. .

Now federal investigators are planning to crack down on Trump-related investigations into post-election activities. That includes the prospect of indictments on Trump’s associates — moves that could be even more complicated if Trump announces he’s running for president.

“They can charge them if they want to,” said a defense attorney working on matters related to Jan. 6, who “has no idea” who will ultimately be charged.

“It’s a terrible thing,” the lawyer said.

Trump and his allies also face legal exposure in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis Beach is investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election in the state. Wrap up her research by the end of the year.

Impeaching an active candidate for the White House is sure to stir up a political firestorm. While no decision has been made on whether a special counsel will be needed in the future, DOJ officials have debated whether to insulate the Justice Department from allegations that Joe Biden’s administration is targeting his chief political rival. CNN.

Special counsels, of course, are rarely immune to political attacks. Both are former special prosecutors Robert Mueller’s Russia Investigation and Special Counsel Trial of John Durham The origin of the FBI’s Russia investigation has been the subject of dry criticism from its detractors.

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The Justice Department declined to comment for this story.

The Justice Department has brought in a brain trust for top counsel in the Trump investigation, according to people familiar with the move.

Top Justice officials visited Kansas City-based federal prosecutor and national security expert David Ruskin, as well as David Roddy, a former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney and an old guard of former prosecutors for the Southern District of New York. Specializes in gang and conspiracy cases and has worked extensively with government collaborators.

Roddy’s involvement was not previously reported, and in recent weeks he left a lucrative partnership at the prestigious corporate security firm Sidley Austin to become a senior counsel in the DOJ’s criminal division in Washington, according to his LinkedIn profile and sources familiar with the move. .

The team in the DC US Attorney’s office handling the day-to-day operations of the January 6 hearings is also growing. Sedition cases Right-wing extremists will be prosecuted.

A handful of other attorneys have joined the Jan. 6 hearing team, including a high-ranking fraud and public corruption prosecutor who left a supervisory position and moved to the team, and a prosecutor with years of experience in criminal appellate work. Certain functions of a grand jury.

Taken together, the prosecutors’ reshuffle represents an intense and snowballing investigation into Trump and his inner circle.

The decision on whether to indict Trump or his associates will ultimately fall to Attorney General Merrick Garland. President Joe Biden has been elected After Senate Republicans, his tenure as a judge offered him some distance from partisan politics. blocked His Supreme Court appointment in 2016.

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Many ex-prosecutors believe they have the facts for an impeachment case. But Garland must navigate the politically risky and historic decision of how to approach the former president’s potential impeachment.

In March, Garland declined to answer CNN’s question about the prospect of a special counsel for Trump-related investigations, but said the Justice Department “doesn’t shy away from controversial or emotional or political cases.”

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“What we avoid, and what we must avoid, is any element of bias in our decision-making about cases,” Garland said. “I am intent on ensuring that the department’s decisions are made on merit, that they are based on the facts and the law, and that they are not based on any prejudicial considerations.”

Garland’s tough decisions go beyond Trump. The Hunter Biden’s Prolonged Trial, the president’s son, is nearing the end, people briefed on the matter say. And waiting in the wings: the final outcome of the investigation of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Getz, After prosecutors recommended against the charges.

It won’t be long after the midterms to turn attention to the 2024 presidential race. Other sources familiar with the inner workings of the Justice Department said it could encourage top DOJ officials to make important charging decisions much sooner, including whether to bring charges against Trump or other high-profile politicians.

“They’re not going to charge before they’re ready to charge,” a former Justice Department official said, offering some insight into the thinking surrounding the probes. “But there will be additional pressure to review” earlier cases than the typical five-year window for bringing DOJ charges.

Things could be complicated by the situation in Georgia, where Willis is investigating Trump’s efforts to change the results of the 2020 election. Willis has said he is aiming for a special grand jury to complete its investigation by the end of the year.

Willis tried to bring witnesses before the grand jury in the coming weeks, observing his own version of the quiet period surrounding the midterm elections. Sources previously told CNN the charges could come as soon as December.

South Carolina Sen. Among the witnesses are key Trump allies, including Lindsey Graham and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. They have tried to fight the subpoenas State investigation into possible meddling in Georgia’s 2020 election.

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How those disputes are resolved in Georgia — including whether courts compel testimony — could improve the DOJ’s ability to gather information. January 6 hearing by the House Select Committee Added to the DOJ’s investigative leads from inside the Trump White House.

The months leading up to the election offered little respite from the political and legal activity surrounding the investigations. DC US Attorney’s Office—it’s still on the shoulder Most of the January 6 hearingsOf the more than 800 rioters on the grounds of the Capitol, prosecutors are seeking to prosecute or plead guilty to hundreds more.

Trump has also thwarted the DOJ’s efforts to keep things quiet in the weeks leading up to the election, leading to a constant barrage of headlines related to the investigation.

Trump’s legal team was successfully enacted A complicated court-led process To sort through the thousands of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago to determine whether they are privileged and off limits to investigators. But the Justice Department and the intelligence community have had access for weeks to about 100 classified records Trump kept in Florida.

The outcome of an investigative 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 activity under the seal never subsidedCNN previously reported that the Justice Department is trying to get at least five witnesses surrounding Trump to provide more information in secret at their grand jury hearings in Washington, D.C.

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Trump counsel Kash Patel to testify before a grand jury investigating the handling of federal records at Mar-a-Lago, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

D.C. District Court Judge Beryl Howell exempted Patel from prosecution over any information he provides to the trial — another significant step that moves the Justice Department closer to indicting the case.

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