Analysis: Donald Trump’s classic legal strategy of delay and embezzlement is out of steam


A trio of new defeats have extended former President Donald Trump’s legal losing streak as he seeks to delay or avoid scrutiny for his hoarding of classified documents and his 2020 election chicanery.

In another big victory for the Justice Department on Thursday, days after winning the conviction of far-right insurgents Oath Keepers, an appeals court halted a third-party review of documents collected by the FBI from the station. Trump’s resort in Florida. Thursday’s order could allow prosecutors to move forward more quickly as they investigate possible violations of the Espionage Act and whether Trump or his aides obstructed justice over material that has been stored carelessly and to which it may not be entitled under the law.

In another blow to the ex-president on Thursday, a federal judge ordered Trump’s former White House lawyers to testify further before the grand jury after rejecting Trump’s claims based on attorney-client privilege. lawyer or executive.

The two attorneys had declined to answer certain questions during a previous grand jury appearance in the criminal investigation into the U.S. Capitol insurrection. That case, along with the case involving documents taken by Trump from the White House, is now overseen by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

On another legal front threatening Trump, his short-lived former national security adviser Michael Flynn has become his latest sidekick to be ordered to testify before an Atlanta grand jury. This survey focuses specifically on Trump’s 2020 efforts to reverse his loss in the swing state.

Another day of heavy courtroom losses for the ex-president paralleled a similar volley of disappointments in the Mar-a-Lago and Georgia investigations and over his failed attempt to keep his statements from private income, which shook the world of Trump before Thanksgiving. The Justice Department’s string of major victories finally calls into question one of Trump’s strategies for avoiding accountability – using the courts to delay or block cases against him in endless litigation.

And the judges’ rulings, in some Republican-named cases, also send a message that Trump’s massive and often laughable claims of executive and attorney-client privilege are an unreliable shield against investigations. Trump’s penchant for appealing all the way to the Supreme Court – and the conservative majority he’s built – also doesn’t seem to be working so far, after the High Court declined to intervene on his behalf in several key cases in recent weeks.

Taken together, this model of futility reinforces a principle that goes to the heart of American legal and political systems – that Trump, even as a former president, is entitled to no more deference under the law than anyone else. what an ordinary citizen.

In a way, the ex-president sought protections that might have been due to him in office, even if he is no longer commander-in-chief. This belief could also be part of Trump’s motivation for launching his 2024 presidential campaign early – as he claims to be the victim of political persecution in order to re-inflame his grassroots supporters against the Washington establishment.

« Donald Trump’s approach, whenever he’s under investigation for anything, is to delay and use the courts as a mechanism to delay – and for him, it works because he’s a former president. We’re all entangled in questions about whether we can prosecute or indict someone who is running for president, » Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, who sits on House Intelligence, told CNN. Committee. »It doesn’t work in court, though. He loses in court almost all the time, » Himes told CNN’s Alex Marquardt in « The Situation Room. »

The Justice Department’s success in removing Trump’s legal hurdles to his investigations could also move the country closer to solving one of the most fatal issues that haunts any modern political campaign: an ex-president running for office. again in the White House and who has a history of inciting violence to further his anti-democratic ends, facing criminal charges?

The latest courtroom setbacks for him also come as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising prepares to release a final report that, judging by its hearings, will paint a picture. a devastating picture of Trump’s conduct. The panel will meet on Friday to debate whether to make the criminal referrals, though such a decision does not compel the DOJ — as it pursues its own investigations — to act.

Thursday’s most significant court ruling overturned a lower court ruling by Trump-appointed judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed a third-party official known as a « special master » to sift through thousands of pages of documents removed from Mar-a-Lago by a court-approved FBI search in August. The office found 103 classified documents among this loot. In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said Cannon should never have intervened in the case and did not meet the standard of extraordinary circumstances that warrant interventions in the case. Department of Justice investigations.

“It is indeed extraordinary that a warrant should be executed at the home of a former president – ​​but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or gives the judiciary permission to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court said.

Essentially, the Justice Department had argued that if a precedent was set for Trump to have a special master, nearly every other citizen in the country would be entitled to a similar step.

Norm Eisen, a legal and ethics expert who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment, described Thursday’s decision as a « staggering rebuke of Judge Cannon but also (of) Donald Trump and his lawyers ». He told CNN: « The court is arguing that if we applied this ruling, across the board, to all Americans, to anyone who gets a search warrant, the court system couldn’t work. »

Trump’s legal team is considering whether to file another Supreme Court appeal on behalf of the former president, sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Trump’s sweeping claims to presidential and personal privilege, which were a hallmark of his presidency as he defied congressional scrutiny, have translated into his multiple legal battles since leaving office.

On Thursday, however, in Washington, D.C., Chief District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled that former White House attorney Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin must reappear before the grand jury. The couple previously testified in September but declined to answer some questions citing Trump’s privilege claims. Neither attorney responded to CNN’s request for comment. And Trump should, as usual, appeal. CNN has contacted its representatives.

New developments regarding Cipollone and Philbin came two days after another sign emerged that the investigation was penetrating deep into the former president’s former inner circle.

CNN first reported that former Trump adviser Stephen Miller testified before the grand jury on Tuesday. Miller, one of Trump’s closest ideological kindred spirits, speechwriter and architect of hardline immigration policy, might be able to help prosecutors understand what was on Trump’s mind in the days and hours leading up to the Capitol insurrection.

His appearance was the latest sign that the courts and justice system are slowly working through the worst attack on democracy in modern American history and that Trump’s efforts to avoid scrutiny in perpetuity may eventually fail.

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