For several months there have been publicly visible signs that the DOJ was criminally investigating Donald Trump, from major media reports about Trump associates being put in front of a grand jury, to search and seizure warrants being carried out against multiple Trump co-conspirators. In fact it was clear that the DOJ was making significant progress in its Trump case. But now it’s turned out the DOJ is much further ahead than we could have imagined.
Part of that is because 95% of the details that surfaced were about the DOJ’s probe into Trump’s fake elector plot. For the past several months all we knew about the DOJ’s other probe into Trump’s classified documents scandal was that it existed, and that it reached the grand jury stage awhile ago. Beyond that, this second probe was the stuff of mystery. This was, of course, until this past week.
But now that we know the DOJ is investigating Trump for espionage, including stealing classified documents and (reportedly) nuclear secrets, it’s the followup reporting that’s revealed just how comprehensively the DOJ built its case before carrying out that warrant.
For instance, the New York Times now says that the DOJ has surveillance footage showing the boxes of classified documents being moved around Mar-a-Lago after it first asked Trump for them back. It’s also being reported that the DOJ got Trump’s attorney to sign a statement asserting that all of the classified document had been returned, before it went in and found more classified documents in Trump’s possession. In other words, the DOJ has Trump, one of his lawyers, and perhaps others at Mar-a-Lago, nailed for obstruction. That’s usually how the Feds manage to flip the smaller fish against the big fish.
All of this obviously took quite a long time to pull together. We’re talking about identifying people in Trump’s orbit who knew about the stolen classified documents, turning them into cooperating witnesses, finding out about the surveillance tape, obtaining it, and all the other steps required to make sure that it already had Trump nailed before it showed up at his door with a warrant on Monday.
There are still procedural steps remaining in this probe, such as taking inventory of the most highly classified documents (there are a very limited number of people who would be allowed to do this), identifying everyone around Trump who illegally handled the documents, and so on. But it’s clear that the DOJ already had Trump nailed before this week started.
This points to the DOJ also planning to have Trump nailed in overwhelmingly comprehensive fashion in his fake elector plot, before making a move on him in that probe as well. Whether this means flipping the likes of Eastman and Clark against him, or obtaining some kind of video evidence, remains to be seen. But if the point is to indict and convict Trump, this is the way to do it. The DOJ is now showing itself to be way ahead of where we could have imagined – and it’s still far from having shown its full hand.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report