On Thursday a major media outlet reported that Donald Trump’s criminal defense attorneys were in talks with the Department of Justice about its criminal investigating into Trump. At the time, we pointed out that Trump’s lawyers were surely the ones who leaked this story, because the DOJ wouldn’t leak such a thing, and no one else would be in a position to be the source.
The consensus among legal experts seems to be that Trump’s lawyers indeed have to be the source of this story. Why would they put this out there? They want to give the public appearance that they’re being assertive and that they have some degree of control over what’s playing out. It’s important to understand that Trump’s lawyers do not have any control over what’s playing out.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump’s lawyers are not “in talks” with the DOJ. When the DOJ is criminally investigating someone, it doesn’t negotiate the terms of that investigation with the person being investigated. Nor is the DOJ naively going to meet with Trump’s lawyers and gullibly spill the beans about its strategy.
If Trump were a smaller fish in this probe and he were offering to cooperate against a bigger fish, the DOJ would be willing to be “in talks” with him about that. Unfortunately for Trump, he’s the top target in this probe, and he’s the top target by a million miles. There’s no one under him that he could give up who would be worth enough for the DOJ to give Trump any real leniency in exchange. At this point the only thing the DOJ would be willing to be “in talks” with Trump about is if he preemptively offered to come in and testify in his own defense, which would be really dumb on his part.
One minor advantage Trump’s lawyers do have is that they can feed the media whatever narrative they want – and the DOJ is unlikely counter that narrative in the media unless it’s something extreme. So Trump’s lawyers know they can get a media outlet to report that they’re “in talks” with the DOJ, and that the DOJ won’t risk showing its hand just to publicly push back against such nonsense. But even this is merely a minor advantage in terms of perception, and not actual power. Trump and his team have no power to influence anything the DOJ does at this point.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report