The DOJ has reportedly spent months working to back various people involved in Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal into a corner, in order to get them to testify against Trump to a grand jury. The tricky part is that many of them have potential legal culpability of their own in this scandal. So they don’t want to testify against themselves while testifying against Trump, and are therefore more inclined to plead the fifth.
One such witness is Kash Patel, who recently asserted that he can’t be compelled to testify against Trump because doing so would violate his own Fifth Amendment rights. After the courts agreed, the DOJ has now decided to grant Patel limited immunity, and he will indeed testify against Trump in the coming days, per the Wall Street Journal. So what does this mean?
First of all, it means Patel can’t invoke the Fifth Amendment in his testimony. This kind of limited immunity is specifically designed to allow Patel to tell the grand jury about what he and Donald Trump did together without incriminating himself, because prosecutors will not be allowed to turn around and use Patel’s testimony against Patel.
That said, it doesn’t mean Patel will necessarily go free. Limited immunity means the DOJ can still prosecute Patel for his role in the classified documents scandal; it just can’t use Patel’s testimony against Patel. However, if prosecutors end up deciding that Patel’s testimony was sufficiently useful in taking Trump down, they could decide not to indict him.
To be clear, there are no magic wands available for Patel in any of this. Even if he considers himself innocent, he clearly fears being prosecuted and convicted for his alleged role in this scandal, or he wouldn’t have previously refused to testify without immunity. And now that he’s been given limited immunity, if he backs out at the last minute and refuses to testify, the DOJ can nail him for obstruction. For that matter, if Patel were to lie during his testimony in the hope of protecting Trump, the DOJ could then nail Patel for perjury. In other words, Patel may or may not go to prison if he cooperates against Trump, but he’s now nearly a lock for prison if he fails to cooperate against Trump.
In any case, the WSJ is reporting that Patel is testifying against Trump. So unless Patel very stupidly changes his mind at the last second, it means the DOJ has landed the kind of “big fish” inside witness that it’s been seeking against Trump all along. Testimony from someone like Patel can establish Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In criminal cases against crime bosses, testimony from top underlings is typically what leads to a conviction at trial.
In other words, the Patel limited immunity deal is the single biggest breakthrough in the DOJ’s indictment process against Donald Trump since the day the Feds carried out that warrant at Trump’s home. Moreover, Patel’s limited immunity signals falling dominoes and a potentially swift Trump indictment after the midterms, so it could prompt others in Trump’s orbit to cut deals against Trump of their own – while there’s still time.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report