When the public takes interest in ongoing criminal probe, a familiar pattern tends to play out. That probe largely plays out behind the scenes, with most or all of the details (and sometimes even the probe’s very existence) remaining out of public view. This prompts the public mistakenly conclude that nothing is happening, or things are moving too slow. Then certain details of the probe belatedly leak to the media months after the fact, and people mistakenly think that this news means they know more about what’s going on in the probe than the prosecutors do.
We saw this with the DOJ’s Trump probe, which was playing out in the background the entire time the public was demanding to know why there was no probe. We saw this again with the criminal case against George Santos, not a detail of which surfaced prior to his indictment.
We haven’t seen this as much with Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ Trump probe, because she’s been willing to play ball with the media a bit more along the way than the DOJ has. But we’re in a different stage of her probe now. Sure, Willis let the public know about it several weeks ago when Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis cut plea deals against Trump. But she kept all the details to herself.
Now that the Trump trial is in the discovery stage, and the pretrial testimony provided by the likes of Powell and Ellis is being given to defendants, someone involved has fed footage of that testimony to the media. It feels like new news. That’s because it is new to us. But we’re the last to find out about it.
Fani Willis did these proffer interviews with Powell and Ellis last month. It’s why she gave them lenient deals. She knew how valuable it was that they were testifying that Trump said he’d never leave office no matter what. We’re only learning about it now because their proffer interviews are so far in the past tense, it’s in that stage where everybody gets to see it.
In other words Fani Willis was way ahead of us when it came to the importance of flipping these witnesses. We’re just sitting here watching things that have already happened. It’s easy to sit back and second guess the lenient deals that Willis cut with these defendants. But at the time, we weren’t privy to the true value of their testimony, and Willis was. If you trust someone overall (and Willis has given us every reason to believe that she’s as savvy as they come), then you have to trust them on decisions like this one. We didn’t have the full picture. And, come to think of it, we probably still don’t.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report