It’s unclear how serious those discussions were and how long they lasted. But Attorney General Merrick Garland and others may soon face a tipping point, as Trump, who lost his bid for a second term in 2020, is expected to announce another presidential campaign Tuesday night.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. People familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Investigators see ego, not financial gain, as Trump’s motive for keeping classified documents.
Several political candidates have been investigated, including Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. In mid-2015, an FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was opened, continued throughout the primaries, closed less than two weeks before Election Day, the convention, and officially reopened.
No special counsel has been appointed for this investigation.
According to the rules of the Department of Justice, the Attorney General appoints a special counsel, specifically a hand-picked prosecutor to handle a criminal investigation, if the case meets several criteria, in particular: the investigation is warranted in a way that shows a conflict of interest. The Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel to handle the case “or other extraordinary circumstances” and in those circumstances “in the public interest.”
Most importantly, even if a special counsel is appointed, that person still reports to the Attorney General, who has the ultimate authority on what to do with the evidence.
Garland made this point earlier this year in a Senate hearing when asked why he did not appoint a special counsel to investigate the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who is the focus of a long-running impeachment inquiry. Trade relations and taxes.
The status of key investigations involving Donald Trump
“It’s a fact and law decision on a case-by-case basis,” Garland told the lawyers, adding that the special counsels “are also employees of the Department of Justice” — meaning they still report to the attorney general.
Sarah Esgur in 2017 Deputy Attorney General Rod J. If Trump were to run for president, Garland said, he has several options other than naming a special counsel.
“I don’t see how the attorney general is going to follow the rules here unless they decide not to prosecute,” Isgur said. “Criminal investigations should appoint a special counsel to avoid conflicts of interest. And what could be more divisive than political appointees in the Justice Department impeaching someone who competes with their boss?”
While the appointment of Mueller as special counsel was not controversial when it was first made, there were some circumstances surrounding this decision that have yet to emerge in the current Trump investigations.
Mueller was appointed shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, and Trump has said in an interview that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey. And behind the scenes, there was considerable tension between FBI and Justice Department leaders over how to conduct the investigation.
It is true that current investigations involving Trump are being pursued by Biden administration officials. But FBI Director Christopher A. Wye is also a Trump appointee. Perhaps more importantly, Biden is uncertain whether he will run again in 2024. The president said he was “planning” to run for re-election but had not made a decision. If he declines a second term, that could reduce any conflict for the Justice Department.
Republican contenders began planning for the post-Trump future
Another difference between then and now is that Rosenstein and other top Justice Department officials began grappling with the realities of the Russia investigation when Mueller was appointed — unlike now when Garland was in charge of Mar-a-Lagoon and Jan. 6. Related investigations for several months.
On the other hand, there may be yet-to-be-publicized wrinkle in the Mar-a-Lago or January 6 cases that raise concerns about the authorities’ conflicts of interest.
Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman during the Obama administration, said that after two years of politicizing the Justice Department investigation, Trump and his allies now see no reason to appoint a special counsel.
“The typical reason for a special counsel is to depoliticize the issue or try to depoliticize the issue. I think it would have the opposite effect with Trump because it would give him a foil to be angry with,” Miller said. “Trump always benefits by turning everything into a circus and not buying a ticket out of the circus. You better treat this as business as usual.” [federal prosecutors] Arguing to the Attorney General.”
Mar-a-Lago classified papers contain secrets about Iran’s missiles, China
Other experts, like Mary McCord, a former top national security official at the Justice Department, said the investigation has been long enough to appoint Garland now a special counsel. “There are people who say it was politically motivated before,” she said. If there is a special recommendation, you cannot delete it.
McCord noted that the Justice Department began its investigation several months before Trump announced his candidacy. And since Biden hasn’t yet determined whether he’ll seek a second term, it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into a rival of a sitting president.
Another complicated issue is how Republicans can scrutinize the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump if they take control of the House of Representatives.
George Washington University law professor and Justice Department official Stephen A.
“If the attorney general picks a lawyer who has prosecutorial experience and is a Republican, it’s a little bit easier than if the Justice Department itself filed a case,” Saltzberg said.
But he warned there could be downsides.
“You never know how the prosecution is going to go,” he said. “And people may feel that the Justice Department is going to appoint special counsel because it can’t be fair.”