Share and Follow
On Thursday, the Department of Justice, led by special counsel Jack Smith, took the last steps to formalize an indictment of Donald Trump. The former president took to Truth Social to reveal that he and his lawyers had been notified of what was coming and given a description of the charges. That naturally set off a firestorm among conservatives, much of it justified given how selective the prosecution appears to be.
Unfortunately, selective prosecution, while a worthy criticism and one that should eventually be punished by the next Republican president, is not a legal argument. So what’s at the meat of the charges Trump will now face? Per various reports, we know that they will range from conspiracy and obstruction to mishandling national security information under the Espionage Act.
Trump’s primary defense has been (and will presumably remain) that he declassified everything he took. The DOJ claims to have an answer to that, though, and it comes by way of a tape RedState reported on previously. Now, we have the actual transcript of that tape (CNN).
A fair warning. If are the type to dismiss anything related to this prosecution, you probably don’t want to read further because I intend to discuss the transcript and what it could mean going forward.
Former President Donald Trump acknowledged on tape in a 2021 meeting that he had retained “secret” military information that he had not declassified, according to a transcript of the audio recording obtained by CNN.
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump says, according to the transcript.
“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.”
This isn’t good for the former president, and even if my personal opinion is that this prosecution is an obvious political pursuit, selectively done while ignoring similar crimes by Democrats, that doesn’t factor into the battle that will take place in court. Unless the quotes above are completely fabricated, Trump admitted on tape that the document (which was written by Gen. Mark Milley about an Iran invasion) he was showing to those in the room was still classified, going so far as to say he could have declassified it as president but no longer could.
Still, there is one possible out regarding the tape that Trump’s legal team will no doubt exploit. Namely, that an audio recording can’t provide definitive evidence that Trump actually showed the document to those around him. Hearing paper rustling is not actually evidence of what he was doing with it, and even though he says “Look, look at this,” that still doesn’t prove he visually showed it to them.
That’s where Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, comes in. He was in the room during this meeting, as it was to provide information for a book he was writing. There have been rumors that Meadows has “flipped.” That led to a denial by his lawyer that he agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony. Yet, when that same lawyer in that same interview was asked if Meadows received an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony, he didn’t answer.
That’s the wildcard for Trump. It takes two to commit conspiracy, and Meadows is already seen as the most likely second half to that equation. Did he accept an immunity deal, and will he testify that Trump showed him the document in question? We just don’t know yet. Ask yourself, though, how the DOJ even got this tape. The most likely culprit would have to be Meadows, right? Trump himself would obviously not give a possibly incriminating tape to the DOJ.
Regardless, no matter what the aforementioned tape shows or doesn’t show, the DOJ is likely going to make obstruction its primary pursuit. That will center on a sworn statement Trump submitted to the grand jury that the government claims was a lie. In other words, it appears that Smith is going with the kitchen sink approach.
Of course, as I said in the beginning, none of this discredits the notion that the Biden administration has weaponized the DOJ to go after a political opponent. No matter what the evidence is, to do this during a presidential election, even timing things so that Trump could be convicted after he secures the GOP nomination, is beyond the pale. It’s election interference at a level that used to be unthinkable. For that, there needs to be retribution.