If you’ve paid any attention to current events over the last several years, but especially since January 6, 2021, you’ve known for some time that Donald Trump should be in prison. The case for him losing his freedom to crash weddings, deface government property, and run for president again has only gotten a boost over the past couple months, during which the January 6 committee and its witnesses shown that the man is an obvious danger to society. The question, of course, is whether or not the Department of Justice is actually going to indict a former president. That the DOJ is reportedly now investigating his specific actions surrounding the plot to overturn the election results and the ensuing insurrection suggests it might. On the other hand, some worry that Attorney General Merrick Garland won’t pull the trigger over fears of politicizing the agency. One group of people expecting criminal charges? Trump’s own legal team.
rolling stone reports that the ex-president’s attorneys have become “increasingly anxious” that he will be indicted for his attempt to overturn the election and are “preemptively preparing a legal defense against criminal charges.” According to reporters Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, Trump’s lawyers have been “brainstorming strategy” and mapping out potential defenses; Trump himself has reportedly been briefed about the situation at least twice this summer. While the legal team had already begun working on possible responses to the charges, the effort apparently ramped up after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly before the January 6 committee. Among other things, Hutchinson told the panel that Trump had been informed that some of his supporters of him who’d gathered in DC on the day of the riot were armed, but demanded they be allowed in to hear his “Stop the Steal” speech anyway ; that then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows seemed unconcerned about the violence at the Capitol; that Trump assaulted a Secret Service agent after being told he couldn’t march to the Capitol himself; and that the 45th president apparently believed VP Mike Pence “deserved” the chants calling for his hanging.
One person familiar with the matter who spoke to rolling stone said, “Members of the Trump legal team are quietly preparing, in the event charges are brought. It would be career malpractice not to. Do the [former] president’s attorneys believe everything Cassidy said? No.… Do they think the Department of Justice would be wise to charge him? At the. 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 stoneIt’s sources revealed that the various legal defense strategies being tossed around include throwing Trump’s advisers under the bus, or a defense based on the right to petition the government over a political grievance.
Last week, it was revealed that Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two former top aides to Mike Pence, had been interviewed by a grand jury investigating the attack on the Capitol. In addition to being able to speak to the threat to Pence’s life on January 6—Short was at the Capitol with the VP that day—the former chief of staff was also in the Oval Office during a January 4, 2021, meeting during which attorney John Eastman pressured Pence to either suspend the Electoral College vote count and ask willing state legislatures to reexamine their results, or just reject Joe Biden‘s win outright. It was during that meeting that Eastman reportedly confessed that he knew such ideas were illegal, but told Pence, with Trump watching, to go along with them anyway. Jacob, Pence’s chief legal counsel, was present at that meeting as well, and told the January 6 committee of it: “During that meeting on the fourth, I think I raised the problem that both of Mr. Eastman’s proposals would violate several provisions of the Electoral Count Act. Mr. Eastman acknowledged that even that was the case, that even what he viewed as the more politically palatable option would violate several provisions.” In March, a federal judge wrote that Eastman and Trump very likely committed a crime in attempting to overturn the election, and noted that “the illegality of the plan was obvious.”
speaking to rolling stone in June, Ty Cobb, a former lawyer in Trump’s White House said: “I do think criminal prosecutions are possible. Whether they are advisable is a more difficult consideration for the country. Possible for Trump and [Mark] Meadows certainly. And for the others, including lawyers, who fraudulently engaged in formal proceedings or investigations.”
For his part, Trump reportedly believes that running for president will allow him to claim the investigation is a politically motivated witch hunt, while actually winning a second term will let him shut it down (and, knowing him, try to have anyone who worked on it pursued). According to Rolling Stone, he’s also told numerous people that should he be indicted, the protests would make January 6 “look small by comparison.” Which is pretty chilling, given, y’know, what happened on January 6.