As Palmer Report pointed out from the start, conviction in Trump’s impeachment trial was always highly unlikely, and the goal wasn’t conviction. It was to educate the public on Trump’s guilt in the insurrection, and to increase the public’s appetite for Trump’s upcoming criminal prosecution. That’s precisely what has happened. Now it’s time to focus on that prosecution.
There are two confirmed criminal cases against Trump. The first is in New York, where the Manhattan District Attorney has a widely documented grand jury in the process of indicting Trump for financial crimes. By all accounts, this case is far enough along that it could indict and arrest Trump at any time. Why hasn’t it happened yet? The DA could be waiting for Trump’s tax returns before indicting. Financial crimes are typically cut and dried, and are a very easy conviction to get with a trial jury. This is the case that will all but certainly send Trump to prison.
The second confirmed criminal case is in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced on MSNBC this week that she’s investigating Trump for election fraud. This is also a comparatively easy conviction to get. But with this case still getting underway, charges may not come soon.
The third case against Trump comes from the Washington DC District Attorney’s office, which told the media yesterday that it’s looking to see if DC local laws allow it to criminally charge Trump for inciting the insurrection. If DC concludes it doesn’t have the jurisdiction, then the incitement charges would need to come from the Department of Justice. Incitement charges are trickier to prove to a jury, so it matters that the impeachment managers just finished mapping out the criminal case that prosecutors can use against Trump in a criminal trial.
In addition to these three criminal cases, there are other legal probes. The New York Attorney General has a civil case going against Trump. Civil cases don’t put people in prison; all they can do is seize assets or assign financial penalties. But any criminal findings in the New York Attorney General’s case will surely be referred to the Manhattan District Attorney for criminal prosecution. Also, E. Jean Carroll has a civil case against Trump aimed at obtaining his DNA, which could then hypothetically be used in other criminal prosecutions, and so on.
There is also the question of whether the Department of Justice will bring federal charges against Trump on matters such as obstruction of justice, abuse of office for corrupt purposes, and so on. We wouldn’t expect to hear anything about this until at least after new Attorney General Merrick Garland is confirmed.
Notably, by all accounts, the SDNY is not currently bringing a criminal case against Donald Trump. Keep in mind that the SDNY is part of the Department of Justice and brings federal charges. The SDNY is not to be confused with New York State. The Manhattan District Attorney is reportedly handling matters such as the Cohen-Daniels scandal. This is an important distinction, because the media likes to periodically report that the SDNY isn’t pursuing Trump, which causes people to mistakenly believe that New York isn’t pursuing Trump.
It’s important to note that none of the above is in any way “inside information.” The Manhattan District Attorney’s case has been widely documented by witnesses who have been called to testify, and by people who have received subpoenas in the case. The Fulton County case was publicly confirmed by the District Attorney. The Washington DC case was confirmed to CNN yesterday by the Washington DC Attorney General’s office. Tracking these cases is simply a matter of paying close attention to publicly available information.
None of this answers the question of when Trump will be arrested. No one knows the answer to this outside of the prosecutorial offices in question, and none of them are talking. Prosecutors work on their own timetable, with no interest in our impatience. But with Trump already out of office, haste isn’t what’s important. The key is to build the criminal cases thoroughly enough that they stick at trial. What matters is that Trump will be indicted, arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned long before 2024.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report