If Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal indictment taught us anything, it’s that bringing an indictment is a living, breathing process that can take unexpected twists and turns even when it’s largely playing out in public. No one knew that the indictment would get pushed back by two weeks for the sake of additional testimony from Robert Costello and David Pecker. And then in the end, the indictment vote happened on a day when the DA wasn’t even known to have been meeting with the grand jury.
But even with that recent lesson in the uncertainty of the indictment process timeframe and foolhardiness of trying to predict anything, the question keeps understandably being asked: when are Trump’s other two indictments coming? By “other two” of course we mean Fulton County and the DOJ.
At the moment, such predictions are even trickier than they were in Manhattan, because the Fulton County and DOJ indictment processes are playing out much further removed from the public eye than they were in Manhattan. In these other two jurisdictions, prosecutors aren’t giving us much to work with, witnesses aren’t talking, and very little is leaking out. In both cases, our best recent source of information has been the court system.
In Fulton County, DA Fani Willis has to obtain time slots in the regular grand jury calendar so she can use them to carry out the formality of presenting her special grand jury report and holding an indictment vote. That doesn’t sound like it would take up a lot of time. But the grand jury calendar in Fulton County is famously backed up, which is why Willis had a dedicated special grand jury handle most of the work in the case. We have no idea where Willis is in the regular grand jury process. She could be a day away from indictment, or she could still be waiting for her turn with the grand jury to begin.
Only one piece of information has surfaced regarding the timeline. Trump filed a nuisance appeal asking that the entire indictment be thrown out. This appeal won’t win, and won’t delay anything; Trump’s attorneys are presumably just trying to give him the impression that they’re doing something. But it was noteworthy the court gave Willis a deadline of May 1st to file her response to Trump’s appeal. This tells me that the court believes (or knows) that Willis will be bringing her indictment before May 1st, and has set this deadline so that she’s not forced to prematurely reveal any of her case against Trump in her response to the court.
That’s a pretty thin basis for predicting that the Fulton County indictment will happen prior to May 1st, and thus sometime in the month of April, but it’s all we have to go on for now.
Then there’s the DOJ case being led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Recently the courts have ruled in rapid succession that everyone from Mike Pence, to Mark Meadows, to Trump’s own attorney, must testify to the grand jury. This isn’t coincidence; it’s a sign that the DOJ has finally succeeded in its very long effort to gradually build an overwhelmingly strong enough case for the courts to strike down attorney client privilege and executive privilege and force everyone around Trump to testify against him.
Trump’s attorney has already gone ahead and testified to the grand jury. The kicker is that courts separately ruled that while the attorney had to testify immediately, the appeals court won’t rule until May on whether the attorney’s testimony can be used against Trump. Good luck parsing that one. It feels as if the attorney’s testimony was so crucial to an urgent national security issue that the courts ordered it to happen immediately, even though they weren’t yet in a position to finish processing Trump’s appeal over the admissibility of that testimony.
Trump is still appealing the Pence and Meadows testimony. But given how seriously the courts are taking the appeals in this case and how quickly they’re being processed, there’s every reason to expect these appeals to be resolved fairly quickly as well. Would it be reasonable to expect everyone to end up having to testify in May? Sure. Would that mean a DOJ indictment against Trump in May or June? Perhaps.
Again, these aren’t predictions. These are semi-educated guesses based on very little available information. The Manhattan case was tricky enough to try to predict, even with 50% of the daily goings-on in that process being spoon fed to the public by various participants. Almost none of the daily goings-on in the Fulton County and DOJ cases are being made public by anyone involved.
I will say though, and it’s the guiding principle in all of this. In spite of all the overdramatic doomsday hype you might hear about how prosecutors are going to “run out of time” and Trump is going to “run out the clock,” that’s not reality. Prosecutors understand how long a case in their jurisdiction will take to get to trial. They know which delay tactics Trump will attempt to use, and how much or little time those tactics are likely to buy him. And they understand that their trials must take place before the 2024 election cycle.
This is a very obvious thing, but it rarely gets stated: the prosecutors in these cases know what they’re doing. They want to take the time they can to build up their cases as strongly as possible, but they also understand that they have deadlines in their heads as far as not running out of time, and they will absolutely meet those deadlines. Of course they’re going to bring their indictments with enough time for Trump to be tried, convicted, and sentenced well before the 2024 election.
So the best prediction I can give you with regard to Donald Trump’s other indictments is simply that they will happen within the timeframe that they need to. The doomsday hysteria out there about how prosecutors supposedly don’t know how to read a calendar, and are going to “run out of time,” is beyond silly. Just as was the case in Manhattan, the other two indictments will happen when they’re supposed to happen.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report