Trump Docs Case Careens Toward The Finish Line As Lawyers Head For The Exits

Trump Docs Case Careens Toward The Finish Line As Lawyers Head For The Exits<br />
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May 2023

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Judging by the flop sweat emanating from Trumpworld, it looks like Special Counsel Jack Smith is nearing the end of his investigation into the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago in August of 2022.

First, attorney Timothy Parlatore bugged out, only stopping by CNN to whine to Paula Reid that Boris Epshteyn, Trump's lawyer/fixer/Michael Cohen 2.0, was to blame for all Trump's legal woes and "has really done everything he could to try to block us, to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president."

"He served as kind of a filter to prevent us from getting information to the client to prevent us from getting information from the client," Parlatore continued. "In my opinion, he was not very honest with us or with the client on certain things."

Then Trump's remaining lawyers demanded to speak to the manager at the Department of Justice, sending that ridiculous letter asking to meet with Attorney General Merrick Garland "to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors." The AG has reportedly demurred, although it seems more likely that the letter was a Hail Mary pass aimed at Trump's congressional allies than at the DOJ -- he did, after all, CC "Representatives of Congress," and not, say, the head of the Criminal Division.

And all the while, Trump is screaming bloody murder on Truth Social. Yesterday he burped out some nonsense about former AG Bill Barr taking a hands-off approach to prosecuting political candidates, and "Now Biden thugs want to indict me, for NOTHING!" (The investigation into Hillary Clinton's BUT HER EMAILS wasn't closed until January of 2020, while Bill Barr set up a special intake mechanism for Rudy Giuliani's rants about Biden in Ukraine and appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden's taxes.)

But even aside from howling by Trump and his lawyers, both the major national papers produce almost daily scoops suggesting that matters are racing to a close in the stolen documents case.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that prosecutors have zeroed in on the time between May, when the DOJ subpoenaed Trump for the documents, and August 8, when it executed the search warrant and found dozens more classified documents. The article expands on an earlier ruling by Judge Beryl Howell which described a "dress rehearsal" wherein Trump went through the boxes of documents and caused some of them to be moved so that he would not have to relinquish those he considered his personal property. Witnesses include workers who helped Trump's valet Walt Nauta move boxes in and out of the storage area before a June meeting at Mar-a-Lago between Trump's lawyers Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb and the DOJ's head of counterintelligence, Jay Bratt.

The New York Times confirmed the Post's reporting, including details about a classified map possibly being shown to reporters or donors. The paper also got new details about Judge Howell's prior ruling, issued in a sealed memo overruling Corcoran's attorney-client privilege claims under the crime-fraud exception.

"Other evidence demonstrates that the former president willfully sought to retain classified documents when he was not authorized to do so, and knew it," she is said to have written, suggesting that prosecutors are zeroing in on the mens rea aspects of the 18 U.S.C. ?? 793 and 18 U.S.C. ?? 2071 charges.

The former chief judge was also highly skeptical of attempts by Trump's attorneys to blame underlings for carelessly throwing government documents into boxes and shipping them to the president's private club at the end of the administration.

"Notably, no excuse is provided as to how the former president could miss the classified-marked documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago," she wrote.

Both articles contain the mandatory indignant denial from Trump spox Stephen Cheung, who produces substantially the same huffy statement five times a week with exactly zero effect. Perhaps we'll know that things are really reaching a crescendo and an indictment is imminent when Trump's social media posts become dangerously unhinged.

Oh, wait ...

Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for documents [WaPo]
Mar-a-Lago Worker Provided Prosecutors New Details in Trump Documents Case [NYT]

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics and appears on the Opening Arguments podcast.