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Special counsel wraps up Trump classified documents probe

Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
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In what could be a last-ditch attempt by lawyers for former President Donald Trump fearing an indictment, Trump’s legal team requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland over the probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents.

The four-sentence letter, which Trump posted on his Truth Social site, argued, “Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter and the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly.”

The legal team wants the meeting to “discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your special counsel and his prosecutors.”

Special Counsel Jack Smith is showing signs of wrapping up his criminal investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prosecutors working for Smith have interviewed nearly every employee at Mar-a-Lago, from top political aides to maids and maintenance staff.

While the probe initially focused on Trump’s taking of the classified documents, it’s turned into much more.

Now, it’s about what Trump did once the government found out about them and asked for them back.

Smith has reportedly uncovered evidence Trump may have obstructed justice, which many legal experts say poses a more dangerous threat to his freedom than his indictment in New York on alleged falsified business records to cover up hush-money payments.

The probe also cast a wider net on the records it subpoenaed. Prosecutors sought details on the Trump Organization’s real estate licensing and development dealings in seven countries – China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Trump’s business denied being involved in any foreign deals while he was president, and it’s unclear what exactly the special counsel's prosecutors are looking for, but the expansion could suggest Smith is looking for whether there’s any connection between Trump’s deal-making abroad and the classified documents he took with him.

Trump continues to insist the documents belonged to him and he was allowed to take them.

But the expansion of this special counsel’s probe – even spreading to Trump’s potential dealings in foreign countries – is reminiscent of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Mueller was originally ordered to look into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and any links between Russia and individuals linked to Trump’s campaign. His final 448-page report did not tie the Trump campaign to Russian efforts to influence the election.

However, the Mueller report did not exonerate Trump either, and ended up finding 10 examples of Trump possibly attempting to impede the investigation.

In his own words, if his team had confidence Trump “clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Mueller’s investigation resulted in roughly three dozen criminal charges, including convictions on six Trump associates. From financial crimes in Ukraine to unregistered foreign lobbying in Turkey, the slew of charges, including computer hacking to lying to the FBI, may not have stuck anything to Trump, but it did send five people to prison.

It shows how a special counsel's investigation may find entirely different crimes than what it set out to uncover. (Although, Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into Mueller’s investigation found the FBI rushed into Mueller’s probe. Still, it didn’t find the “crime of the century,” either, as Trump and his allies predicted).

Though not much is publicly known about the investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents, the expansion of Smith’s subpoenas could foreshadow more or different charges apart from violating the Presidential Records Act, which the investigation initially set out to determine.

Mueller once stated the only reason he didn’t recommend an indictment of Trump regarding the possible instances of obstruction in the Russia investigation was because of the DOJ’s long standing policy against charging a sitting president.

He was asked in a congressional hearing if that was why, and responded, “That is correct.”

Later, he corrected himself, saying, “We did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

Still, it’s been suggested before Trump may have obstructed an investigation, and Smith may come back with a recommendation for an indictment for the same thing over the classified documents investigation. Some of Trump’s close aides are bracing for his indictment, the Wall Street Journal reports, but think they can fundraise off an indictment.

Trump is eyeing another four years in the White House. If Smith finds anything and manages to get an indictment, it'd have to happen before a hypothetical Trump 2024 presidential victory, or else he will have managed to evade his legal troubles once again.

Even if he was convicted and sentenced to prison and still won the election while incarcerated, legal experts say he could probably carry out the day-to-day business of the presidency from behind bars.

Others say the need for a duly elected president to fulfill the duties of office could override a criminal conviction, so the sentence could at least be put on hold. Trump could even try pardoning himself if he takes office.

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