Trump has been indicted (again).
Happy Friday everyone. Before we get into everything (THIS IS CRAZY), I actually want to lay out a schedule for the Jackal, given the upcoming holidays.
The Jackal will be off next Friday, in celebration of Juneteenth.
It will be back on the 23rd, but then will be sitting by the grill eating burgers for the 4th of July holiday.
It then returns on July 7th, and should go full speed throughout July before taking on its normal lighter schedule in August.
That said, this is now the
FOURTH FIFTH draft of this Jackal, which has been updated to reflect the insane news cycle, but it will likely be missing crucial details as this story evolves.
The news this week was just pure pandemonium, bordering on a Mad Max: Fury Road level of insanity. In case you slipped into a coma last night, Donald Trump was indicted in Florida, and is set to appear on Tuesday next week.
Before we get into the details of the indictment, I want to engage in some unseemly back-patting. Last week, the Jackal told you that charges against Trump would be coming soon. When the initial “raid” of Mar-A-Lago happened last year, the Jackal said things would be getting much worse for Trump. And earlier this year, the Jackal said explicitly that Trump would be indicted for his conduct in the classified documents case:
All of this is why the DOJ is going to prosecute Trump later this year, and it is also why members of Biden’s transition team (who would be the ones at fault here) are unlikely to see any serious criminal charges. And make no mistake about what I just said: The DOJ is going to prosecute Trump.
Alright, put your vomit bags away; the victory lap has been run. And obviously, I get a lot of things wrong in the course of writing these every week (there will likely be something wrong in this post), but I try to keep the legal stuff as accurate as possible, with little to no speculation. In that spirit, let’s dive in.
What is Trump being charged with?
Trump’s indictment dropped earlier today. He is being charged with 37 counts, all related to:
Corruptly concealing a document or record.
Concealing a document in a Federal investigation.
Those are pretty serious. If you want to read a really long, and boring document that details how this sort of prosecution would work, I will link you one here (it is a PDF, be warned). But overall this looks like a central charge that falls under a violation of the Espionage Act, with Trump actively refusing to cooperate or return documents, and lying to the FBI.
A quick thing to note about the Espionage Act: It is serious, but it’s also a lot scarier than it sounds. Some people immediately think violating it amounts to treason or spying on the United States, but that isn’t the case. It is a really general and large law, and a lot of things get charged under it, but the most common is the mishandling of classified materials or leaking classified materials to the Press (Chelsea Manning was charged under the Espionage Act). So, before you start yelling “TRAITOR” at Donald Trump, hold off until he is convicted of seditious conspiracy.
So, this is pretty bad?
If you are Donald Trump, you are in an entirely new world of legal hurt. Things were bad last night, but they turned markedly worse this morning. For one, CNN got a hold of a transcript that details Trump explicitly stating that he was handling classified materials that he did not declassify. Here’s CNN:
The transcript of the audio recording suggests that Trump is showing the document he’s discussing to those in the room. Several sources have told CNN the recording captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document.
“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.”
A few hours after this report dropped, Trump’s attorneys in the case resigned from both this case and the January 6th investigation. Shortly after that, Trump himself revealed that his aide, Walt Nauta, had also been indicted in the classified documents case. Then Trump’s indictment itself was released, and not only did it confirm CNN’s reporting, but it also documents all of the materials he took, which includes stuff at the highest tier of classification. Trump actually kept nuclear secrets with him at Mar-A-Lago.
It’s important to say clearly that this indictment is far more serious than the one in New York (where Trump is unlikely to serve any jail time, even if convicted). A violation of the Espionage Act would likely put Trump in prison for the rest of his life, if he is convicted. And that’s before you even get into his legal exposure for January 6th.
OK, but how will Trump wriggle out of this?
Trump did get a big boost on Friday morning: A judge that he appointed, Aileen Cannon, was (preliminarily) selected to preside over his case. Cannon handled the cases initially related to this matter last year, and was criticized for being overtly pro-Trump in her rulings.
She was eventually eviscerated by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and relented, but she did cause a delay in the case, and that is partially why we are seeing the indictment come down now as opposed to March or April (Smith’s appointment as special counsel is also a contributing factor). If you are wondering how Trump got a judge he appointed to be assigned to his case, it’s not really all that crazy. In Federal court, there is what’s called a “wheel” that randomly assigns judges to cases, and it’s based on things like workload and other random factors. It is not a conspiracy that she was assigned and I wouldn’t suspect anything nefarious happened at all.
That said, it is likely that the DOJ will ask Cannon to recuse herself and it is almost as likely that they will be successful. Her assignment to the case (at this point) is not permanent, so this is all something that could change, but the DOJ does have multiple ways it can get her off the case. There is also a possibility that they leave her on and trust that the Eleventh Circuit made clear to her that Trump sycophancy from the bench won’t be tolerated. But that is more speculation than anything else.
Tell me how bad it is again.
I sat down with the indictment and gave it a read. My jaw was actively open the entire time. The details in this indictment are truly wild:
Those are my ugly notes, but Trump hoarding potential nuclear secrets at his personal residence in Mar-A-Lago is jaw-dropping. We sort of had an inclination of where this investigation was going last year, and there was also some reporting that classified “nuclear” documents were being investigated. But it is jarring to see it all in real time. I mean, read this paragraph:
Surely, surely this means the GOP will turn on him, right?
If you seriously believe this, God is saving His silliest battle for you, because you are His biggest clown. Not a single GOP candidate polling above .5% issued a statement condemning Trump. Instead, all of his biggest challengers said this was evidence of a “two-tiered” justice system that was targeting Trump and ignoring Democrats.
By my count, the only people who actively condemned Trump were Mitt Romney (no surprise) and a lot of the also-rans in the GOP primary, like Asa Hutchinson. In fact, there were more statements that flirted with sedition from Republican Congressmen than there were statements of condemnation from serious GOP challengers.
David Frum nails how Trump and conservative media effectively “froze the keeper:”
The conservative world in the age of Trump has coiled itself into a labyrinth of lies: lies about Trump’s victimhood, lies about Trump’s popularity, lies about Trump’s election outcomes, lies about Trump’s mental acuity and physical strength. The architects of the labyrinth presumed that they could always, if necessary, find an exit—and that their keys could someday turn the exit’s locks. Instead, they have found themselves as lost and trapped in the labyrinth as the deceived people they lured into it.
As a result, they have failed to take each opportunity to escape: the first impeachment, the November 2020 defeat, the January 6 crimes, the second impeachment, the end of the administration, the 2022 wipeout of swing-state election-denying candidates, the first indictment, and now this second indictment.
Along the way, these architects have taught tens of millions of Republican voters and conservative believers to regard the labyrinth of lies as their proper political home. Why escape at all? Escape to where? The ironic outcome of all this is that the deceived followers now block the exits for the deceptive leaders.
Also in The Atlantic, David Graham details how this indictment is different:
His defense will face difficulties, including the huge amounts of evidence obtained in the search, as well as a ruling that one of his lawyers had to turn over information that otherwise would have been shielded by attorney-client privilege. Trump will likely try to spin the charges as concerning “process crimes,” as though those are not just crimes, and deflect from the papers themselves. He has also claimed that he declassified all of the papers at the end of his presidency, but he produced no evidence for that, and his lawyers have avoided making the claim in filings. Reports last week said that prosecutors have a recording in which he seems to acknowledge that he cannot show a document to visitors because it is classified. And if he’s charged for refusing to return the documents, their classification status will not matter.
This is truly an “oh shit” moment. When you even have the talking heads on Fox News saying this is a serious indictment, it is time to concede that Trump is in serious legal jeopardy.
There were a few last things that stood out to me after the indictment dropped. This one is particularly HILLARious, and the typo is intentional:
Jack Smith has details of a conversation Trump had with one of his aides, where he actively discusses making documents “disappear” so that investigators can’t find them. The reason he cites to this is because he believes Hillary Clinton’s team deleted 30,000 emails from her server, and that protected her from being indicted. In other words, Trump believes that because Hillary got rid of the evidence of her crime, he should do the same thing.
Hillary’s “deletion” of 30,000 emails is widely touted in conservative media as being evidence of wrongdoing, but investigators said the opposite. What really happened was this:
Around 2014, after she had left office as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s team tells the company that manages her server to delete any personal emails older than 60 days.
That company forgets to comply with the request.
Clinton’s team asks the company to get stuff together from the server because the GOP House issued a subpoena.
A single employee from the company realizes he forgot to delete the old personal emails and does so.
The FBI explicitly said that no one from Clinton’s team directed him to delete the emails.
The FBI said they "found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them."
Ultimately, the FBI’s investigation into Clinton found that her team had cooperated with both the FBI and even the House GOP. After the GOP issued their subpoena, it was Clinton’s team that reached out to the company managing the server to get them to comply.
This is markedly different from Trump’s conduct, which shows an intent to deceive investigators and frustrate the proceedings. Trump also directed other people to lie in efforts to assist him. Trump’s behavior is worse than Clinton’s by many, many orders of magnitude, and it is why he is being prosecuted. A thing to note here is that the DOJ is actually going pretty easy on Trump, since they are indicting him only for the things he held on to; the stuff he took from the White House and then returned are not cited as a reason for indictment in the report.
But it is partially fitting that Trump’s brain was broken by a conservative media that helped create him. Last night, I literally laughed out loud as I watched Mark Levin scream at the television that Trump was innocent. But he was there for one reason and one reason only: To provide a counter narrative to reality. Trump exists because conservative media exists to coddle their viewers and readers. Fox News is not a legitimate news source; it is a cup of soup at 5 P.M. at the nursing home. It is bed time stories so that executives at Fox can tell their shareholders they held the eyeballs to the screen six more MyPillow™ ads. And we have now come to a perfect circle, as Donald Trump - the personification of the Fox News id - is indicted, partially, because he watched too much Fox News.
Trump is in serious legal trouble, and that is true no matter how much you point at Hunter Biden or Hillary Clinton. The facts don’t care about your feelings.
I know I gave the schedule above, but if anything truly nutty happens, I will try to send you another Jackal. If not, I hope you all have a great weekend and a great Juneteenth.