A federal judge has just ruled that due to the crime-fraud exception, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must testify to the grand jury about his incriminating phone call with Trump. This is a huge victory for Jack Smith and the DOJ. They clearly view Corcoran as the witness who takes Trump down.
Will Corcoran appeal? Maybe. Will he win? No. Will he be able to drag it out long? No. The courts take grand jury testimony seriously, so when there are disputes over it, they sort it out promptly. We just saw that in Fulton County, where every one of the subpoenaed witnesses – even the ones who exhausted all their legal options first – ended up testifying within roughly the expected timeframe.
So what now? Corcoran will likely testify soon (or soon-ish), and then it’ll come down to how many more witnesses Jack Smith is putting in front of this grand jury. Yesterday we learned he’s been working his was through having Mar-a-Lago employees testify to the grand jury. There are clearly a number of moving parts here, but they are – at least by legal system standards – moving quickly.
The important thing to remember is that once the witnesses are all done testifying to the grand jury, that’s it, they vote to indict. The only real question is whether Smith will bring the classified documents indictment against Trump now, or wait until the 1/6 indictment is ready and bring them simultaneously. And that is anyone’s guess.
It had to take an extraordinary amount of time for the DOJ to interview every lower level witness about everything they ever saw or heard, piece together what all really happened, identify one particular secret phone call that nailed Trump, line up enough witnesses to prove to the courts that this Trump-Corcoran phone call was a criminal act so that the courts would order Corcoran to testify against Trump. And most of this took place before Smith was even appointed. He was brought in because the probe was already nearing the finish line.
Building this case was like putting together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, with no picture to go on, in order to find and decode a map somewhere within the assembled jigsaw puzzle, so that the map could then be followed to the specific witness and the specific secret phone call that are going to ensure a conviction. It’s a long, long process, and obviously a lot closer to the end now than the beginning.
Without first uncovering the Corcoran call and securing his testimony, the DOJ would have gone into trial without any real proof that Trump intended to steal the documents to begin with, or intended hide them from investigators. That would have been a very risky case. You don’t get to put someone on trial immediately (like so many Garland bashers were demanding), without a solid case, lose at trial, and then put that person on trial again later for the same crime once more evidence has been uncovered.
This kind of thing is never about “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” or any of the silly catch phrases that get tossed around by the pundit class. It’s about the lengthy process of peeling back layers until you’ve gradually unearthed a case that can win at trial. That process has been steadily playing out for some time now, with enough of it surfacing in the media that it’s been clear to all that the process has continued to move forward – even as opportunistic pundits have yelled “DOJ is doing nothing!”
To put it another way: Merrick Garland oversaw all the thankless gruntwork of building up these DOJ cases against Trump. Then he brought in Jack Smith to bring the indictment so it wouldn’t be politicized. Garland knew that doing this meant Smith would get all the credit, and Garland did it anyway.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report