Legal experts are weighing in on news that attorneys for Donald Trump are “increasingly anxious” and starting to prepare for possible criminal charges against the former president.
“Members of the Trump legal team are quietly preparing, in the event charges are brought,” a person “familiar with the situation” told Rolling Stone in a report published Sunday night. “It would be career malpractice not to. Do the [former] president’s attorneys believe everything Cassidy [Hutchinson] said? No … Do they think the Department of Justice would be wise to charge him? No. But we’ve gotten to a point where if you don’t think criminal charges are at least somewhat likely, you are not serving the [former] president’s best interests.”
Rolling Stone adds that “Trump’s team has discussed strategies that involve shifting blame from Trump to his advisors for the efforts to overturn the election, per the three sources, reflecting a broader push to find a fall fall-guy — or fall-guys.”
One source said: “Trump got some terrible advice from attorneys who, some people would argue, should have or must have known better.”
“An ‘advice of counsel’ defense would be a big one,” they added.
The Rolling Stone report also suggests Trump has been aware of the possibility of charges for some time.
“Trump also seems keenly aware of the blowback that could result from a federal indictment — and is telling supporters it could be politically advantageous. Early this year, the former president told fans at a Texas rally that if prosecutors go after him, ‘we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had…in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere,'” the report states.
Top national security attorney Bradley Moss commented on Trump’s attorneys beginning to work on his criminal defense: “I would have started that work 18 months ago but that’s me.”
Attorney George Conway, spouse to former top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, appeared to weigh in hours after pointing to the Rolling Stone report.
“There is nothing in the statute books or in the DOJ prosecution manual or in criminal law generally that says incompetent and unsuccessful criminal conspiracies don’t get prosecuted. The nation’s prisons are filled with maladroit miscreants. Tfg would be perfectly at home.”
He also pointed to a June tweet from former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, now a law professor and MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst.
“I’ve prosecuted many an incompetent conspiracy. You don’t get a pass for that,” she wrote.
And at one point Conway mocked, “I’ve always envisioned him making defective license plates.”
Retired and noted Harvard Law School law professor Laurence Tribe, who wrote a major book on the Constitution, focused on the portion of the report that mentions “a broader push to find a fall fall-guy — or fall-guys.”
He writes: “Who’d be surprised?”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti says, “Obviously, since Trump is the subject of a federal criminal investigation, his lawyers are beginning to consider what his defense would be. I don’t find this news surprising.”
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law law professor Orrin Kerr, also focusing on the “fall guy” portion of the report, appeared to mock the former president.
“After all the top lawyers and officials I had appointed told me this was illegal, I looked around and found *someone* with a bar membership willing to tell me what I was going to do was not obviously illegal, and I relied on them on the advice of counsel.”
Katie S. Phang, an anchor and Legal Contributor at NBC and MSNBC, offered a colorful response.
“Trump is going to allege a Covfefe Conspiracy between everyone else, but him. Hey Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman, Clark, et al.: buckle up because you’re about to go through some things.”
Image: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour
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Embattled Trump-Appointed DHS Inspector Was Given Phones of Secret Service Agents in July, Raising ‘New Questions’: Report
Senior Secret Service leadership confiscated the cell phones of 24 agents and handed them over to the embattled Trump-appointed Inspector General of the Dept. of Homeland Security as he was launching his criminal investigation into the deleted text message scandal. The Secret Service, DHS, and former Trump officials at the Pentagon have been under fire after the IG, Joseph Cuffari, belatedly revealed texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, had been deleted.
“The agency handed over the phones ‘shortly after’ a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office,” NBC News reports.
“The revelation that Cuffari’s office has had access to the phones since late July or August raises new questions about the progress of his criminal investigation into the missing text messages and what, if anything, the public may be able to learn about communications between agents on Jan. 6, 2021,” NBC adds.
Cuffari reportedly learned in December of 2021 that the cell phones of Secret Service agents directly involved in protective operations on the day of the insurrection, had been wiped and text messages deleted. He did not report this to Congress until July of 2022, despite his staff taking action.
CNN, however, has reported Cuffari actually learned of the deleted texts in May of 2021, which if accurate would mean he waited more than a year to inform Congress. Nor did he inform the National Archives, which is required by law to retain those records.
Cuffari has been seen by some as covering for Trump loyalists. His own staff is calling for his firing.
“Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog staff recently called on President Joe Biden to remove their boss, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, according to a blistering letter obtained by the Project On Government Oversight,” POGO reported last week. “‘The highest priorities of an inspector general are integrity and independence,’ states the letter. ‘IG Cuffari and his inner circle of senior leaders have fallen short in these areas time and time again.'”
In April of 2021 The Washington Post reported Cuffari “blocked investigations proposed by career staff last year to scrutinize the [Secret Service’s] handling of the George Floyd protests in Lafayette Square and the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, according to documents and people with knowledge of his decisions.”
Noted political scientist Norman Ornstein, who sits on the POGO board, in late July called the situation a “coverup of treason.”
POGO, he wrote, “has been calling for a long time for the resignation of DHS IG Joseph Cuffari. He sat on the information of missing texts from the top DHS ‘acting’ officials, put there by Trump to do his bidding. Stinks to high heaven. Coverup of treason.”
DOJ Demands Return of Emails Peter Navarro Sent From Private Account for Government Business
The Department of Justice is seeking a court order to compel Peter Navarro to return government documents he took after leaving the Trump administration.
Investigators are seeking the return of emails he sent while working on the White House coronavirus response, which they say were sent from a private account for government business to discuss ventilators, activating National Guard units, and the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, reported CNN.
“There is no genuine dispute of fact that Dr. Navarro used at least one unofficial email account to conduct official business, that those records are the property of the United States, and that Dr. Navarro has refused to return the records to the United States. Indeed, his counsel has expressly admitted as much,” wrote Justice Department lawyers.
“Because Dr. Navarro remains in possession of property that belongs to the United States,” the lawyers added, “this Court should issue a writ of replevin requiring Dr. Navarro to return what he wrongfully continues to possess.”
The National Archives discovered the emails were missing after the DOJ sued Navarro earlier this year in a records dispute related to a House investigation.
No ‘Semblance of a Campaign’: Five of Trump’s Candidates for Governor Air Zero TV Ads Combined
Former President Donald Trump’s picks for governor in five states are facing media scrutiny after failing to air a single television advertisement since winning their primaries.
In a report on Monday, The New York Times revealed that Pennsylvania candidate Doug Mastriano “is being heavily outspent by his Democratic rival, has had no television ads on the air since May.”
“There’s no sign of cavalry coming to his aid, either: The Republican Governors Association, which is helping the party’s nominees in Arizona, Michigan and six other states, has no current plans to assist Mr. Mastriano, according to people with knowledge of its deliberations,” the paper added.
Matt Brouillette, the president of a conservative advocacy group, slammed Mastriano in remarks to the Times.
“I can’t even assess things because I don’t see a campaign,” Brouillette said. “I’ve not seen anything that is even a semblance of a campaign.”
According to the report, Mastriano’s lackluster campaign is not unusual among Trump’s preferred candidates.
“Along with Mr. Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Trump-backed candidates for governor in five other states — Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Michigan — have combined to air zero television advertisements since winning their primaries,” the report said.
Over the weekend, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) vowed to campaign against Mastriano and other Trump-endorsed candidates who push lies about the 2020 presidential election.
“I think we have to do everything we can in ’22 to make sure those people don’t get elected,” she told the Texas Tribune Festival. “We have to make sure [Doug] Mastriano doesn’t win.”
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