Donald Trump may announce a 2024 presidential candidacy ahead of the midterm elections, as he reportedly believes it could help him avoid prosecution in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. If he were a candidate, the thought went, any criminal investigation against him would appear hopelessly corrupt.
But if Trump believes he is in control of events, the calendar, and public discourse about his vulnerabilities, a confluence of developments should test that confidence.
The news that the Justice Department has subpoenaed former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone points to new dangers for Trump. But that’s not all. Revelations by the House Special Committee on Jan. 6 keep the public informed of the types of wrongdoing a criminal probe might focus on and make it harder for Trump to conduct a demagogic investigation.
Cipollone was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating events surrounding the attack on the Capitol, reports ABC News. It’s unclear which grand jury subpoenaed him — one focusing on Trump’s fake campaign platform, another on January 6 itself — but the New York Times adds: “Mr. Cipollone’s appearance was requested at a time when federal prosecutors are sharpening their focus on Mr. Trump’s conduct and not just those who advised him.
“Investigators have asked questions about Mr Trump and his actions from witnesses, including people who worked in the White House. Two former senior advisers to Vice President Mike Pence — his chief of staff Marc Short and his chief counsel Greg Jacob — testified before one of the grand juries, according to people familiar with their performances.”
Here’s one way to gauge what that might mean: What could such a federal investigation learn from Cipollone that the Jan. 6 committee could not? Cipollone testified before the committee, and it was explosive. He condemned a plan by Trump allies to confiscate voting machines. He testified that by pressuring Pence to undermine the election count, Trump was pursuing a plan that may have been illegal.
Cipollone also testified that Trump didn’t bother to call law enforcement while the mob was attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6. Cipollone announced that he had called for immediate efforts to repel the rioters. And he condemned Trump’s tweet, which turned mob anger on Pence when the latter was already rampaging and Pence’s security detail feared for her life.
So Cipollone could testify before a grand jury about all of this. But he also repeatedly invoked executive privileges to avoid disclosing direct talks with Trump himself.
For example, he refused to disclose communications with Trump about the need to ward off the rioters. And he would say no direct knowledge of conversations about the mob’s “Hang Mike Pence” chants and Trump’s alleged belief that Pence “deserved it.”
But a Justice Department investigation could likely prompt Cipollone to disclose those communications, says New York University law professor Ryan Goodman, who follows the Jan. 6 saga.
“Cipollone obviously thought many of Trump’s plans were illegal,” Goodman said. “The Justice Department can learn from Cipollone what he said directly to Trump and how Trump responded. That’s probably damning evidence.”
This could further determine the extent to which Trump acted with corrupt intent. This is important to show that he has broken laws, such as B. obstructing an official process (the election count) or conspiring to defraud the US (by conspiring to undermine that count).
Cipollone may be able to testify to the extent to which Trump has been briefed that his plans may be illegal. That could invalidate Trump’s inevitable claim that he only listened to lawyers. “This is where Cipollone can come in to show how Trump has been told that various plans are obviously illegal,” Goodman said.
Former US Attorney Harry Litman adds that prosecutors are not hampered by Cipollone’s invocation of executive privileges.
The Justice Department “will insist that there is no protective shield for his testimony and, if necessary, go to court to force his hand,” Litman said, noting that Cipollone could help “trump’s knowledge that his behavior was illegal, based on his own conversations with the President”.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/white-house-bid-unlikely-to-insulate-trump-from-prosecution-41890805.html The White House offer is unlikely to deter Trump from prosecution