Why is the DOJ just now seizing all these phones from Trump people? It likely already obtained their texts and emails from the carrier awhile back. Seizing the phones is for confirmation, and for seeing what else it can find on them. Seizing phones isn’t the beginning of the investigation, it’s the beginning of the endgame.
It’ll be really interesting to see what the DOJ does next. Seizing a phone requires probable cause that the phone contains evidence of a crime. But it’s theoretically possible that some of these phones only contain evidence someone else committed a crime, not the phone owner, and right now a whole lot of these Trump people with seized phones are hoping the DOJ sees it that way, and views them merely as material witnesses, not as criminal targets.
In other words, how many of these people will the DOJ indict, and how many of them will the DOJ simply require to testify against Donald Trump and the biggest fish? We have no way of knowing that from the outside.
And when it comes to the ones who will be indicted, will that happen before Trump is indicted? At the same time? The DOJ seems to be building toward a coordinated crescendo. But precisely what that’ll look like is anyone’s guess.
Remember, the goal is to get everyone in Trump world to flip on Donald Trump, either by being a voluntary witness or by cutting a cooperating plea deal. Ideally, the DOJ wouldn’t need to arrest anyone but Trump. That won’t happen, but that would be the ideal outcome.
Some people around Trump will refuse to cut cooperating plea deals even after they’re informed they’re going to be indicted, because they’d rather take their chances with a jury than serve the reduced prison sentence that comes with their deal.
Some people accused of lesser crimes to begin with, who see an opportunity to flip on everyone and do a year in prison and move on with their lives, as opposed to rotting in prison for five years if they’re convicted, are going to take that deal.
People accused of the most serious crimes, who are looking at a long prison sentence even if they do flip, will be less inclined to do so. Unless they’re such a uniquely crucial witness to taking Trump down, the DOJ offers them immunity.
Some Trump people facing long prison sentences may cling to the laugh out loud delusion that Trump is somehow magically going to become President and pardon them. But when people are that stupid, all you can do is write them off, and offer cooperation deals to less-stupid people.
Not everyone in Trump world is insane enough to believe that Donald Trump, who is toxically unpopular and will be in a prison cell, can somehow magically win the 2024 election. Some of them will cut deals against him. It’s part of why you cast such a large net. Of the forty Trump people the DOJ subpoenaed last week, some fraction of them will decide to cooperate against Trump in order to avoid going down. It’s just math.
Even those who are merely material witnesses, and not criminal targets, know they can still go to prison for obstruction if they to testify against Trump, or for perjury if they lie to try to protect Trump. They’re all on the hook. Some of them will choose to get off the hook by piling on against Trump. Some of them may have done so already. As we’ve seen in the DOJ’s other big probe into Trump, the Feds often go to great lengths to protect the identities of their cooperators while the probe is still ongoing. At this point no one in Trump world can trust anyone else in Trump world not to have already flipped. Some will turn against each other out of paranoia. It’s how coverups fall apart, and how massive criminal probes come together.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report