Could a Legal Storm Stop Trump from Reaching the White House Again?

The Trump-DeSantis 2024 Campaign Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences for Ukraine

There has never been a presidential campaign like this before.

Donald Trump is proceeding with his pursuit for a third consecutive Republican nomination despite a looming storm of legal uncertainty.

The twice-impeached former president, who attempted to steal an election and is accused of fomenting an insurgency, kicked out his first two-state campaign swing on Saturday in his bid for a spectacular political comeback.

Then, on Monday, Trump’s potential exposure – in two of his several strands of legal jeopardy – looked to rise, anticipating a campaign that will almost certainly be characterised by distractions from criminal investigations.

According to AWN’s Kaitlan Collins and Katelyn Polantz, two people who discovered two secret documents in a Trump storage facility in Florida testified before a federal grand jury. Federal prosecutors are also pressing to examine information on at least one staff member’s laptop at Mar-a-Lago, according to AWN. Although the former president has not been charged with any crime, these developments are the latest indication of special counsel Jack Smith’s aggressive approach to the investigation. And it demonstrates how a steady stream of legal difficulties could impede from the former president’s efforts to energise a so-far sluggish campaign, especially given the various criminal risks he may face.

On another front, The New York Times reported that a Manhattan district attorney is presenting evidence to another grand jury investigating Trump’s alleged role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. A district attorney in Georgia said last week that decisions on charges connected to Trump’s attempt to overturn his state’s 2020 election loss are soon. It is unclear whether the inquiry is directly targeting the ex-president. This comes when Smith investigates Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021 US Capitol insurgency.

The enormous legal labyrinth that has engulfed Trump implies that a third consecutive US election will be marred by controversies that will drag the FBI and the Justice Department deeper into a political quagmire. (President Joe Biden is also facing a special counsel investigation into his handling of documents from his time as vice president, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who is considering a 2024 run, is being investigated by the DOJ for similar issues.) This comes on the heels of the Hillary Clinton email scandal in 2016, as well as investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during that White House bid, as well as Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in 2020.

The fact that Trump is running for president again under unusual legal circumstances might have far-reaching implications for the 2024 campaign. Some of his possible Republican opponents, wary of challenging him, may hope that his legal troubles will do the job for them. Perceptions that Trump is embroiled in a criminal probe may degrade his personal political brand even further, which has already contributed to Republican losses in national elections in 2018, 2020, and 2022.

Nonetheless, Trump is a master of using legal and political attempts to hold him accountable. He’s already centred his new presidential campaign on the notion that he’s being politically persecuted by Justice Department investigations and what he thinks are rogue Democratic prosecutors.

“We’re going to end the horrible weaponization of our legal system. This type of legal system has never existed before. “It’s all investigation, investigation,” the former president stated on the campaign tour over the weekend.

This is a message that may appeal to those of Trump’s base backers who are dissatisfied with the federal government and previously believed his allegations about a “deep state” conspiracy against him. It’s also a method used by demagogues throughout history in which a strongman leader claims to be bearing the heat so his supporters don’t have to.
Evidence of a thorough investigation

As is customary, it is unknown what the people who discovered the sensitive documents at the Florida storage facility told the grand jury. However, the ex-president is being probed not just for suspected Espionage Act crimes, but also for possible obstruction of justice in connection with the materials.

The two people, who were recruited last fall to inspect four of Trump’s properties months after the FBI issued a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago club over the summer, were each quizzed for approximately three hours in separate appearances last week. The scope of the material they provided the grand jury is unknown, though they did not refuse to answer any questions, according to one source familiar with the investigation.

Former Department of Defense special counsel Ryan Goodman told AWN’s Erin Burnett on Monday that the recent development was indicative of an advanced special counsel probe and may suggest that Smith was leaning toward indictments.

“It appears that he is attempting to lock in their testimony, to understand how they would testify at trial, whether it is damaging material against Trump or exculpatory evidence that the prosecutors would then have and solidify.”
How political forces might cause legal distinctions to fade

The mere, highly charged act of investigating an ex-president was always going to spark political outrage. The fact that Trump is running for president again raises the stakes and means that Attorney General Merrick Garland will have to make difficult decisions if evidence reveals that Trump should be charged.

On a more specific level, the grand jury report emphasises that, for all the political commotion, the inquiry into Trump’s haul of secret documents at Mar-a-Lago is taking place within its own legal bubble.

This is still the case, despite the fact that the finding of sensitive materials at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home and a Washington office he had used should have been returned when he left the vice presidency. Pence’s Indiana home also included some classified documents.

These revelations enabled Trump to allege that he was unfairly singled out, despite the fact that the cases differed significantly. Any attempt by Trump to claim that he, like Biden and Pence, unintentionally brought documents to his home will be contradicted by his claim that the material belonged to him, not the government, and what appears to be repeated refusals to return it.

Fresh evidence of progress in the Trump documents special counsel probe followed the latest sign of House Republicans’ skewed response to the scandal over secret material, which is pounding Biden over documents but giving Trump a pass.

For example, AWN’s Pamela Brown asked House Oversight Chairman James Comer this weekend why he was uninterested in the more than 325 documents discovered at Trump’s home but obsessed with the approximately 20 classified documents discovered in Biden’s premises by lawyers and an unknown number discovered during an FBI search of the president’s home earlier this month.

“If someone can show me evidence of influence peddling with those sensitive materials in President Trump’s hands, we would surely expand it,” the Kentucky Republican added. He went on to accuse Biden and his family of being “extremely friendly” with members of the Chinese Communist Party, but provided no evidence of such ties or any connection to confidential data. His words gave the sense that his committee is looking for evidence to convict Biden while treating Trump differently, which is exactly the kind of double standard the GOP claims the DOJ is using against Trump.

The two special counsel investigations into Trump and Biden’s preservation of classified information are proceeding independently. There is no legal overlapping between them. However, if the findings are made public, they will both face the same political firestorm.

If Trump is charged – over what appears to be a larger collection of documents and behaviour that may amount to obstruction – and Biden is not, the ex-president will create a firestorm of indignation among his followers. Even if the existing president is immune from prosecution according to traditional Justice Department instructions, it’s difficult to see how the political basis for pursuing just one of them could hold – especially if Biden and Trump run for president in 2024.

From the outside, Biden and Pence appear to have been significantly more forthcoming with the DOJ and the FBI after certain classified materials were discovered at their houses than Trump has been. FBI officers needed a search warrant to enter Mar-a-Lago, and the former president maintained that presidential materials that belonged to the federal government when he left office belonged to him. However, people may find it difficult to appreciate the intricate legal differences between the two cases, a situation made more likely by the House Republican counter-attack based on Biden’s materials.

As the political consequences from the classified papers scandal intensified on Monday, the country was reminded of the treatment that lower-ranking federal employees might face when confidential material is taken home.

According to court documents obtained by AWN’s Holmes Lybrand, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who maintained files containing secret information at his Florida home will plead guilty in February to one count of improper retention of national security information.

Robert Birchum had more than 30 years in the Air Force and previously held top secret clearance. According to his plea deal, he kept hundreds of files that were classified as top secret, secret, or confidential outside of permitted areas. According to the plea bargain, “the defendant’s residence was not a site allowed to retain classified information, and the defendant was aware of this.”

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