Legal expert breaks down 'bombshell' report: 'Trump is the subject of a criminal investigation'

Legal expert breaks down 'bombshell' report: 'Trump is the subject of a criminal investigation'
White House photo

The Washington Post’s exclusive report published Tuesday evening, revealing for the first time that the Dept. of Justice is investigating Donald Trump‘s actions as part of a January 6 criminal probe, is a “bombshell,” according to legal expert Benjamin Wittes.

“The story is a bombshell because it reports for the first time that Trump is the subject of a criminal investigation for his individual conduct in the wake of the 2020 election,” Wittes writes in a lengthy thread on Twitter. He also, speaking frankly, says there is a “shitload” of new information in the Post’s report.

Wittess’ name may be familiar to some. He’s a legal journalist, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Lawfare Blog, a go-to resource for legal news and opinion, especially on issues of national security, Donald Trump, and the Trump presidency. Among the many lines on his résumé, Wittes is a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, and a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

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Wittes points to this sentence in the Post’s report: “Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

He explains, “This strongly suggests that this disclosure is coming from the Pence camp. It is a crime for prosecutors or FBI agents to disclose what Pence aides were asked by prosecutors. It is perfectly legal for the aides or their lawyers to talk about it. Assume the leak is from witnesses.”

Calling it “one of the most interesting passages in the story,” Wittes highlights this passage:

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“The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the fake-elector effort led by his outside lawyers, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.”

And then this one:

“The Washington Post and other news organizations have previously written that the Justice Department is examining the conduct of Eastman, Giuliani and others in Trump’s orbit. But the degree of prosecutors’ interest in Trump’s actions has not been previously reported, nor has the review of senior Trump aides’ phone records.”

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Wittes amusingly writes that the Post’s “reporters here are being modest—which is actually rare in this business. The technical term for the amount of new information in this story is ‘shitload.’ And the quality of the information is very high. This is how high-stakes reporting on big investigations should look.”

Wittes is not in the camp of those who have highly criticized the Dept. of Justice for its approach on prosecuting the January 6 insurrection. As recently as last week he penned a piece at Lawfare titled, “In Defense of the Justice Department.”

He concludes: “Bottom line. This is a really meaty story packed with a lot of new stuff. Other reporters will be chasing and building on for the next several days.”

Other legal experts have responded to the Post’s report. George Conway, whose sense of humor is often apparent, tweeted: “All I can say after today’s developments is: Will be wild!

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