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Donald Trump stands in front of a crowd
Donald Trump stands in front of a crowd
Gage Skidmore / Flickr (Edited)

Law Enforcement

Special Counsel Invites Trump to Testify Against Himself

Trump announced he received a letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith ordering him to testify before a D.C. grand jury.

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Former President Donald J. Trump announced early Tuesday that he had received a letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith ordering him to testify against himself in a Washington D.C. grand jury. This follows grand jury subpoenas for his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump released a statement revealing he received the target letter from Smith on Sunday, and the special counsel gave him “a very short 4 days” to report to the Grand Jury in Washington, D.C. Trump wrote that such a development “almost always means an Arrest and Indictment” and said the investigation was a politically motivated effort to help Joe Biden win the 2024 election.

Trump anticipates being arrested and indicted by a jury pool that has proved merciless towards Republicans in highly-politicized cases over the past two years. After arrest, the judge in the case will have the option to keep the former president in jail pending trial, a move that many Democrats are calling for in consideration of the “danger” they say his political speech poses to “democracy”.

Left-wing civil libertarian and legal scholar Jonathan Turley suggested in a column for The Messenger that Smith chose to indict in Washington D.C. because – no matter how groundless the case is – he is likely to benefit from intense anti-Trump bias from D.C. jurors and judges.

Prior to this year, no former president had ever been charged with a federal crime and neither had any leading candidate for office been charged by the incumbent they’re running against. A Trump imprisonment pending trial would mark a new first, and the District of Columbia would be the most likely place for it to happen.

This is a separate matter from the ongoing federal trial in Florida regarding handling of classified documents and the case in New York – widely viewed as a dud – over alleged mishandled paperwork in The Trump Organization.

Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jack Smith in March 2017. (DOJ)

Commentators anticipate that the D.C. grand jury will hit Trump with insurrection, conspiracy or other charges in relation to the January 6 Capitol Riot in 2021. To date, despite eager attempts by Democrats in Congress, there is no evidence that President Trump or anyone connected to him planned for nor intended violence at the U.S. Capitol.

In his speech at the Ellipse on January 6, President Trump urged supporters to demonstrate peacefully at the Capitol: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” The speech took place slightly less than a mile and a half away from the Capitol – roughly half an hour’s walk according to Google Maps – and violence began there roughly 20 minutes before Trump finished speaking.

Some Democrats have pushed the theory that Trump’s legal challenge to the 2020 election was somehow – in and of itself – a crime. Conservatives have dismissed this theory as ludicrous given the long bipartisan history of similar election challenges and the 2020 Biden campaign’s own plans to mount a virtually identical challenge in the event he lost the election.

Former U.S. Attorney Brett L. Holman expressed shock about this move, because ordering Trump to testify against himself flies in the face of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, significantly endangering the integrity of the case. Holman speculated that, “Continuing would only be for the optics of the target pleading the 5th. Or to try and rattle the witness enough to respond to questions.”

“There is really no statute that applies to make anything Trump did criminal,” civil rights attorney Robert Barnes commented in his Bourbon with Barnes podcast on Locals, claiming broadly that the predicted case against Trump is extremely weak and that Smith may find that the typically-obsequious federal judiciary may give him more pushback than he anticipates.

Conservative attorney Mike Davis suggested that the real reason for going ahead with the indictment – which he calls “bogus” – is to distract from the unraveling defense of Hunter Biden against corruption accusations.

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A.J. Cooke
Written By

A.J. Cooke is Cuban-American freelance journalist and ghostwriter based in Northern Virginia. He grew up in Japan, Malaysia and Portugal. His father, Don Cooke, was one of the 1979 Iran Hostages and his grandfather, the late Ambassador Diego Asencio, was held hostage by M-19 guerrillas in the 1980 Bogota Embassy Siege. A veteran political campaigner, fundraiser and ghostwriter, Cooke writes mostly political news with a focus on data science and legal analysis.

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