When the appeals court cleared Mike Pence to testify to the grand jury against Donald Trump, and DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith had Pence on the stand just hours later, it was a clear indicator that Smith was very near the end of the indictment process. After all, Pence is the highest ranking witness, and they tend to testify last, or near to last.
That leaves the question of just how close Smith is. It’s still possible he could bring back other witnesses for followup testimony to provide additional context to the testimony that Pence just gave. And it’s also theoretically possible that Smith’s strategy could involve having someone else, such as Mark Meadows, or a Trump family member, be the final witness (although it’s possible such people have already testified and the media just didn’t pick up on it).
But legal expert Neal Katyal made an interesting point on Jen Psaki’s MSNBC show. He pointed out that even though Mike Pence ended up testifying semi-voluntarily in the end, there is no reason for Jack Smith to expect that he’ll be able to bring Pence back to the stand again. Pence testified because he knew he was going to end up having to. But would he come back for followup questions without a new court order? Probably not.
So when Jack Smith decided to put Mike Pence on the stand immediately after the courts cleared it, this likely meant that Smith had already completed every single aspect of the indictment process that could even remotely possibly churn up new questions to ask Pence on the stand. In other words, this investigation and indictment process really does have to be just about 99.9% done by now.
Katyal is now predicting that we’ll see Jack Smith acting “officially” in this investigation in the “next couple weeks.” He didn’t define what he meant by “officially,” but there’s very little that could refer to other than having the grand jury bring the first round of criminal indictments.
I won’t dare predict a specific timeframe of my own. But Katyal is onto something when he suggests that Jack Smith just tipped his own timetable for Trump’s indictment when he put Mike Pence on the stand the minute he was allowed to do so, rather than doing any additional cleanup work first. It suggests all the cleanup work was already done before Pence was even cleared to testify.
I will say this. Don’t be shocked if you simply get a news alert out of nowhere sometime soon – could be tomorrow or three weeks from now or four days from now – saying that Jack Smith and the DOJ have criminally indicted Donald Trump. There’s a good chance it’ll just come out of nowhere, with no media leaks beforehand. We’re close enough now that we can potentially expect an indictment at any time.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report