This will shock many of you, but based just on what little is publicly visible of the DOJ’s Trump probe, the DOJ appears to be ahead of the Fulton County DA’s Trump probe in terms of progress. The media just spins things very differently. So what do we know about the DOJ probe?
For starters, the DOJ indicted the entire Oath Keepers and Proud Boys leadership back in January for seditious conspiracy, and has repeatedly cut cooperation deals with a few of them, including Roger Stone’s Oath Keeper driver. Then came the higher level stuff.
Major news outlets have reported that the DOJ has had a 1/6 grand jury into Trump world since at least January of this year. We only know about this because a few of the subpoena recipients blabbed to the media. The rest of the subpoenaed witnesses’ identities are unknown.
In what may be the same DOJ probe or may be a separate DOJ probe, grand jury search and seizure warrants were carried out against Trump co-conspirators John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark on June 22nd of this year. This was reportedly about the fake elector scheme.
On that same day, June 22nd, the DOJ also searched the home of the Nevada GOP Chairman. That same day it also subpoenaed GOP officials and Trump campaign people who were connected to the fake elector schemes in Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan. This was all reported by major news outlets.
Just to obtain the kind of warrant that includes searching someone’s home and seizing their phone, the DOJ would have already needed to show strong evidence of that person’s guilt to a judge. It’s not clear what that evidence was or how the evidence was obtained. But it means that Eastman, Clark, and the other folks on the wrong end of these warrants were already pretty screwed *before* the warrants were carried out. So June 22nd wasn’t the start of the DOJ investigating Eastman and Clark, it was the culmination of that work.
Because the DOJ works in secret, and these isolated details only become public because a target complained to the media or a neighbor saw the raid, we only know a few slivers of what the DOJ has done – but it’s still a lot. How can this be classified as being a “lot” of progress for the DOJ? Compare it to the Fulton County probe, where the District Attorney has sent subpoenas and target letters, but is not known to have carried out any search and seizure warrants yet.
Based on what has publicly surfaced, the DOJ appears to be well ahead of the Fulton County DA. The DOJ is throwing Trump’s top co-conspirators out of their homes in their underwear in the middle of the night and taking things from their homes. The DA appears to still be in the subpoena stage, not the “people in their underwear” stage.
None of this is a knock on the Fulton County DA, who appears to be doing a fantastic job. She’s just a local DA with comparatively limited resources, yet she’s managed to get this far already, which is amazing. But all the available evidence points to the DOJ being further along, which makes sense given DOJ’s more vast resources.
To put the DOJ’s search and seizure warrants against Eastman and Clark in proper context: the equivalent would be the Fulton County DA carrying out search and seizure warrants at the homes of the top Georgia GOP officials who allegedly conspired with Trump in the election plot. Nothing of that sort has been reported anywhere.
The irony is that it’s possible the Fulton County DA has carried out search and seizure warrants in secret, and that it simply hasn’t become public yet. In such case, the DA would be as far along as the DOJ is. But again, we don’t know most of what’s going on in either probe.
And if you think it’s wrong to assume the DA is behind the DOJ just because there’s no publicly visible indication she’s carried out seizure warrants, then wouldn’t it also be wrong to assume the DOJ isn’t doing certain things just because there’s no publicly visible indication of those things?
Put another way: the most powerful tool in this kind of hierarchal criminal probe is flipping a key co-conspirator against a higher level co-conspirator. We know the DOJ has flipped Oath Keeper and Proud Boys leaders, but we don’t know if the DOJ has flipped Trump world people against Donald Trump. Nor do we know if the Fulton County DA has flipped anyone in Trump world against Donald Trump. Nor would we expect such information to surface this early on. In other words, we know very little when it comes to the arguably single biggest criteria for judging a hierarchal criminal probe’s progress.
“But the DOJ hasn’t indicted anybody in Trump world yet!” Actually, they’ve indicted Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, and Bannon is on criminal trial right now. But you’ll probably say that doesn’t count because it was for contempt, and not for election fraud. Okay, but to be fair, the Fulton County DA hasn’t indicted anyone yet at all – and no one is holding that up as supposed evidence of timidity.
Believe it or not, indictments are not the biggest sign of progress. When you’re trying to get to the top of a criminal conspiracy, it’s a true win when you can flip someone upward. If you can’t flip them, you settle for indicting them, and you try to flip someone else.
Consider that even as the DOJ and the DA have each carried out subpoenas, warrants, and target letters against numerous people in Trump’s orbit, they’ve each skipped over Mark Meadows. Have they both flipped him, or are they saving him for the end because they view him as a top level criminal target alongside Trump? We have no way to know. They’re not going to tell us that yet.
The bottom line: there are various ways to measure a hierarchal criminal probe’s progress, but most of the information that could be used to measure that progress remains secret, and it’s often a random crapshoot as to what does or doesn’t leak out in real time. But if you want to measure progress based on what is publicly known from reports by major news outlets, then the DOJ appears to be significantly ahead of the Fulton County DA in terms of getting to Trump. And that is not in any way a knock on the Fulton County DA.
So why are you so certain that it’s the opposite, and the the DA is ahead of the DOJ? One answer: media coverage. The media routinely (and accurately) offers praise for the DA’s work, while the media spends every day chasing ratings by falsely insisting the DOJ isn’t even investigating Trump. It really is that simple.
One other thing: the only reason many of you felt “comforted” by Merrick Garland’s statement yesterday is that you’ve allowed the media to build up baseless fear in you every day. The media doesn’t know what the DOJ is doing behind the scenes, and no one wants to admit to being clueless, so most of the media just pretends to definitively know that nothing is happening.
If not for constant baseless fear mongering from the media, you wouldn’t be sitting around worrying about whether the DOJ is doing anything about Trump. Instead you’d see things like the DOJ seizure warrants against Eastman and Clark, and you’d take it as a clear sign that the DOJ is targeting and moving closer to Trump, and you wouldn’t be fretting over it. The bottom line is that the DOJ shouldn’t have to keep making public statements (five so far this year and counting) reiterating its stance that its 1/6 Trump probe is going all the way to the top, just to correct the false claims that the media keeps making to the contrary. It’s not that Garland needs a publicist. It’s that the media needs to knock off the bullshit.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report