Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Some Bad News and Some Good News for Trump Yesterday

It is a good thing for us that we abandoned the poop emojis, because we had them only up to five and yesterday's news would rate about 10. On top of that, Donald Trump also got some good news and we didn't have an emoji for that. Maybe we could have used a Big Mac with double fries?

First, the bad news. In a letter, federal investigators have notified Trump that he is formally the target of an investigation. In DoJ-speak, a target is someone for whom there is "substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant." When it gets to this point, it almost always means that the "target" is about to be indicted. Also, other signs point to an imminent indictment. Special counsel Jack Smith's grand jury was called back in session and Trump's lawyers spoke with the DoJ. At this point, the chance of the DoJ of dropping the Mar-a-Lago documents case is virtually zero. It is an open-and-shut case of violating multiple laws. It is just a matter of Smith deciding which laws to use. It matters for various reasons, which we will get into shortly. The indictment could come at any time now, maybe even this week.

Now the good news for Trump. If charges are brought in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, they will be mostly br brought in federal court in Southern Florida, not in D.C. (some charges, such as perjury, might be brought in D.C.). The reason for choosing Florida is that DoJ guidelines specify bringing charges where the crime was committed. The illegal possession of classified documents occurred in Florida, not in D.C.

This is good news for Trump because the jury pool in Florida is much Trumpier than in D.C. In Florida, Trump got 47.9% of the vote. In D.C. he got 5.4% of the vote. In practice, this means that a D.C. jury would probably not have any sneaky Trumpy voters whereas a Florida one might. Of course, the prosecutors will question every potential jury member diligently during the voir dire and ask if they will ignore their personal views and base their decisions on the law and facts blah blah blah. But a diehard Trump supporter who wanted to get on the jury might lie to all the questions and act like a good upstanding citizen who will follow the judge's instructions. The DoJ knows this, of course, and has experience trying to weed out biased jurors. But short of having the FBI do a full background check on every potential juror the chance of a diehard Trumpist sneaking onto the jury is far greater in Florida than in D.C., where they are scarce on the ground.

At the voir dire, prosecutors can ask "innocuous" questions like: "What is your highest level of education?" "Do you own a pickup truck?" "Do you own a gun?" "Do you have an American flag outside your house?" "Do you watch Fox News?" This might work to indicate who might be a Trumper, but each side gets only so many peremptory challenges (challenges that don't need the judge's approval). Once they are used up, the prosecutor will have to convince the judge that a gun-owning, pickup-truck driving, flag-waving, high school dropout shouldn't be allowed on the jury because he or she might be biased.

Since this would be a federal case, it is possible that a judge nominated by Trump could get the case. That would put the judge on the spot, knowing the entire world was watching and 100 top lawyers would be analyzing his or her every move on television every day. This might even make a Trump appointee bend over backwards not to help Trump to prevent massive criticism. Of course, if Judge Aileen Cannon gets the case, forget it. Hell, she might throw the case out on day 1.

Nevertheless, a decision to hold the trial in Florida has at least one disadvantage for Trump. It would be very unwise for him to dispute the venue and make a motion to move the trial to D.C. Consequently, one way to stall would be removed if the DoJ proposed Southern Florida. The DoJ has some flexibility by carefully formulating the charges. If the charges are about "unauthorized removal of classified documents," then that occurred in D.C. If the charges are about "unauthorized possession of classified documents," that occurred in Florida. Removal and possession occurred in different jurisdictions.

Another potential disadvantage of a Florida Trial for Trump is that if a Florida jury finds him guilty, it will be much harder for him to spin that as a jury biased against him. That will be doubly or triply true if after the trial, one or more jurors comes forward and says: "I love Trump. I voted for him twice. But the facts show that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." No such juror is likely to be on a D.C. panel.

Some other Trump legal action happened yesterday in Florida. A federal grand jury in Miami heard testimony from Taylor Budowich, a top adviser at the super PAC that is supporting Trump. He was a Trump spokesman involved in issuing a statement after the National Archives found 15 boxes of material, some of it classified, at Mar-a-Lago in Jan. 2022. The questioning was likely about that.

All in all, Trump surely has to be very nervous now. All signs point to an imminent indictment on the documents case, with the insurrection case still in progress. And an indictment in Georgia in mid-August also seems likely. Plus there's Alvin Bragg, and a potential federal investigation into the Trump Organization's foreign dealings while Trump was president. Trump may not understand how serious all this is, but his lawyers certainly do. Maybe they will try to sit him down and explain it all to him, but they know that he hates to hear bad news, so maybe they won't. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates