One of the tricky parts in following any federal criminal investigation is that 99% of the progress takes place in secret, and even when something does leak out to the media, it’s usually only a small piece of the story and arrives belatedly. Those who don’t know any better often end up concluding that “nothing” is being done.
Case in point: in the roughly six weeks since Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed, we’ve seen scattered reports that this or that person has been subpoenaed or has testified to a grand jury. But this kind of thing typically only comes to light when a hostile subpoena recipient blabs about it to the media, or someone randomly spots a high profile witness entering a courthouse. In fact most of the “news” that’s broken over the past six weeks about the DOJ probe into Trump has turned out to be things that happened before Smith even took the job, and were – as usual – being reported belatedly.
Now that’s happening yet again, but in what appears to be far more meaningful fashion. CNN is reporting tonight that Jack Smith subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani for documents last month, and that Smith has also subpoenaed numerous Trump associates involved with his post-2020 Super PAC. Why does this matter?
First of all, this doesn’t appear to be a matter of just one disgruntled subpoena recipient running to the media to try to complicate Smith’s life. The way CNN is reporting it, just about everyone around Trump has been subpoenaed since Smith took over. So it makes you wonder who’s tipping the media off about this, and if perhaps this is Smith’s way of steering the general public toward the end of the indictment process so it’s prepared for impending indictments.
Second, Smith reportedly sent the grand jury subpoena to Giuliani more than a month ago, which means that – as usual – the investigation is way ahead of the reporting. More importantly, while congressional subpoenas can be dragged out in court for years, grand jury subpoenas are easily enforceable via the threat of contempt of court. The deadline for the Giuliani subpoena has likely already come and gone, so unless Giuliani has secretly been held in contempt of court, it would suggest that he’s complied and turned over the documents.
Third, these subpoenas make clear that Special Counsel Jack Smith is following the money. Donald Trump has long been widely suspected of using his post-2020 Super PAC as a personal piggy bank. If Smith can prove as much, he can nail Trump on the kinds of financial crimes that make for easy convictions in court, on top of the trickier charges along the lines of espionage and insurrection.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report