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Special Counsel Smith rushes criminal investigation into Trump


Newly appointed special counsel Jack Smith is moving swiftly through a series of criminal investigations into Donald Trump, and the past few months have focused on the former president’s state of mind after the 2020 election. including what he knew about plans to block the transfer of power. People familiar with the matter told CNN.

While he remains in Europe to recover from a bicycle accident, Smith has made a series of high-profile moves since being named chief last month.

Since Thanksgiving, Smith has brought a number of Trump’s close associates to a grand jury in Washington. Among them were two former White House lawyers, three Trump aides and former speechwriter Stephen Miller. He also issued a series of subpoenas, including to election officials in battleground states where Trump sought to reverse his defeat in 2020.

Smith will take over a staff almost twice as large as Robert Mueller’s team of lawyers who worked on the Russian investigation. A team of 20 prosecutors investigating the January 6 investigation and efforts to overturn the 2020 election is moving to work under Smith, according to people familiar with the team.

Smith will also take on a national security investigator already working on an investigation into potential mishandling of federal records brought into Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House.

Together, the two investigations have already established more evidence than Mueller started, including a year-long financial investigation that largely flew under the radar.

“While Mueller was effectively starting from scratch, Jack Smith appears to be integrating on the fly into an active, fast-moving investigation,” said former federal prosecutor and senior legal analyst at CNN. Ellie Honig says.

Smith also won’t be bound in the same way as Mueller, who postponed deciding whether to indict Trump because he was a sitting president.

Trump has lashed out at Smith’s appointment on social media, but some of the former president’s lawyers think it could have gone worse, according to people familiar with the matter. The lawyers say the former president is unlikely to be indicted, according to two sources familiar with the matter. They also believe Smith’s appointment is a good thing because he is “not emotionally attached” to the original case and can view it “coldly and factually.”

“The fact that we’ve discovered a man who’s been in Europe for the past few years without his brain getting soaked in the January 6 press soup is a good thing,” the source said.

But other members of Trump’s team say Smith’s appointment shows a more aggressive stance from Attorney General Merrick Garland, who sees Smith as a “hitman” likely to be prosecuted. , said a person familiar with their thinking.

On Friday, the Justice Department’s approach in the Mar-a-Lago case hit a minor snag, with a federal judge refusing to hold Trump in contempt of court, prompting the DOJ and Trump’s team to come up with a solution. rice field. National security records have returned to federal ownership.

Behind the scenes, in a separate sealed proceeding related to Jan. 6, Smith told federal court he was already in charge of the investigation, according to some sources. Trump’s attorneys have not been in direct contact with Smith at this point, but some sources expect to eventually speak to him once he returns to the United States.

It’s unclear how long Smith will continue to work before either investigation decides to file charges. Both investigations could lead to indictments in the coming months, but Smith could spend time building and expanding his team and continuing to hunt for information gathered, according to people familiar with some of the investigations. It is said that there is a sexuality.

“Jack Smith could move faster than Merrick Garland and push decisions to Merrick Garland’s desk faster than he otherwise would,” Honig said.

There is still work to be done to centralize all the moving parts of the large prosecution team under the new special counsel’s office, according to some people familiar with the investigation.

Smith is working for two investigative teams away from downtown Justice Headquarters, as well as John Durham, who is nearing the end of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation, as Mueller did for the investigation. We are planning to set up a physical office.

According to several people familiar with his appointment, Smith will act like a U.S. attorney — managing an existing team of career prosecutors who are already working on cases and signing the evidence they bring to him. Mr. Mueller, who hired several attorneys from outside the Justice Department to pursue parts of the Russia investigation from scratch.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a statement about the Russian investigation at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on May 29, 2019.

Mueller also had his own set of legal counsel, similar to the Justice Department’s shadow appeals and policy team. Smith will likely not be in the same system, with attorneys across the Justice Department backing him up as needed, according to people familiar with the office’s development.

Garland turned to longtime Criminal Appeals Section leader Patti Stemmler, who retired from the DOJ earlier this year, as a consultant on the January 6 investigation.

Others in previous departments and other sections of Stemler are likely to spearhead cases and policy issues as needed, some sources say, and may be more likely to spearhead thorny constitutional issues or Russia investigations. It departs from Mueller’s exhaustive approach to preparing for appeals in the United States.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the story.

Publicly available court filings have already revealed that Trump is under investigation for mishandling national security secrets after taking office.

But another investigative team looking at efforts to block the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election was granted permission by the Justice Department to take the case against Trump a year ago. If the evidence leads them there, according to sources. The work that the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC has been doing for political circles around Trump in relation to Jan. 6 will now be transferred to the Special Counsel.

The DOJ, which was led in part by former Maryland federal prosecutor Thomas Windom, added prosecutors from across departments to its Jan. 6 team in recent months. Windham and others will also move to the special prosecutor’s office. Court records of unsolved riots in the Capitol show those who appear to be turning around, like prosecutor Mary Dorman, who has already worked on several other Capitol riots. There is also

Another top prosecutor, JP Cooney, is the former head of corruption in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., and is overseeing important financial investigations undertaken by Smith. Some sources said the investigation would also include looking into possible misuse of political contributions. The Washington, D.C., federal attorney’s office was investigating potential financial crimes related to the Jan. 6 riots before the special counsel’s arrival. This included potential money laundering and helping mobs stay in hotels and bus trips to Washington before January 6th.

Former President Donald Trump launched the 2024 presidential election on November 15.

But in recent months, financial probes have sought information about Trump’s post-election Save America PAC and other funding from those who helped Trump, according to a subpoena seen by CNN. A few months after the 2021 riots, the financial investigation gained momentum as DOJ investigators recruited collaborators, one of the people said.

In interviews with people in Trump’s orbit over the past few months, part of the Justice Department’s focus has been on the timeline through January 6 and on potential events on that day, according to sources familiar with the question. It was in Trump’s involvement and knowledge.

Trump’s allies have consistently maintained that nothing Trump did related to the election and that January 6th itself deserves a crime. The hurdles to proving he committed a crime are so high, suggesting that jurors will hear that he has received conflicting advice from different attorneys. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Trump that Vice President Mike Pence could not block the January 6 election verification, but that Rudy Giuliani and others believed he could. There is

Even earlier this year, federal prosecutors said they planned to steal the election and prevent Trump from conceding, according to sources with knowledge of the questions posed at this stage of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation. I specifically asked the witness whether

The Justice Department investigation has evolved significantly since then, but sources familiar with grand jury testimony in recent months told CNN that prosecutors still question whether there was a plot to steal the election. , said it was focused on Trump’s understanding of the relevance.

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