Legal Analysts: DOJ Filing Shows Garland Should Move Quickly to Indict Trump

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tags: espionage, Donald Trump, Merrick Garland, Obstruction of Justice

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

Accountability is the foundation of a law-bound society. When criminal misconduct by the powerful goes unpunished, belief in obeying the law is undermined.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice laid out damning new details in its latest legal filing regarding the court-authorized Mar-a-Lago search, details that make it clear that Donald Trump likely committed serious felonies. In the DOJ’s new court papers responding to a Trump lawsuit requesting a special master be appointed to look through the seized documents, the DOJ provided photo and documentary evidence of this extensive lawbreaking.

First, there was a photograph of several classified documents—including at the top secret level— that had been found in Trump’s personal office drawer and placed on the floor for photographing. Further, the DOJ presented to the public for the first time the June affidavit from Trump’s lawyer swearing explicitly, and falsely, “on behalf of” Trump that “[a]ny and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings” had been turned over to investigators in response to a lawful subpoena.

The DOJ further reported that when FBI agents came back to perform the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8 after evidence emerged that the affidavit was false, “over one hundred unique documents with classification markings—that is, more than twice the amount produced on June 3, 2022, in response to the grand jury subpoena—were seized.” Finally, the DOJ stated that it had evidence that “that government records were likely concealed and removed” as part of an effort to obstruct the DOJ’s investigation. Again, this is quite the damning list of evidence of Trump’s wide-ranging criminal misconduct.

Given that accumulating evidence, some federal indictment seems increasingly likely. But whether Trump will pay any real price depends on when Attorney General Merrick Garland proceeds and what he charges.

To have a reasonable chance of imposing effective sanctions, Garland should focus on the relatively straight-forward offenses that prompted the Mar-a-Lago search and on securing an indictment by mid-November, after the midterm election when DOJ might be perceived, falsely or not, as interfering in that race.

If DOJ waits much longer past this date to indict, even if a conviction occurs, Trump’s appeal might not be complete before this administration ends. If a MAGA Republican President is inaugurated on January 20, 2025, a pending appeal would likely be aborted. 

Read entire article at Slate