Trump finds himself at growing legal and political risk after a whirlwind week

For months, it was unclear whether the House Select Committee investigating on Jan. 6, 2021, would be able to overcome his obstruction and penetrate his West Wing. Baffled critics complained that the Justice Department was not drilling into his inner circle to examine whether his efforts to steal the 2020 election broke the law. But now critics who, through two impeachments, a Russia investigation and multiple scandals, have come to share Trump’s belief that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and get away with it that his impunity may be in question for the first time.

A stormy few days in Washington have changed the perception of Trump’s political and legal danger related to his coup attempt after losing the 2020 election. Revelations that former White House aides have been brought before a grand jury have blown the lid off a Justice Department investigation. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s public statements that the department would prosecute those who tried to disrupt the legal transfer of power appear to spell trouble for Trump, as the House panel has shown he was at the center of multiple Venn diagrams of election conspiracies . questions the narrative of a shy attorney general wary of investigating a former president given the upheaval such an approach could cause. That’s especially the case since news broke Wednesday that Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the star witness at the committee’s Jan. 6 televised hearings, is cooperating with the parallel investigation of the Department of Justice. That came a day after it was announced that two former aides to then-Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, had gone before the grand jury. The development was the clearest indication yet that the Justice Department was looking into conduct directly related to Trump and his closest allies.

“I’m not one to say every time there’s breaking news or a breakthrough that’s very important,” said Preet Bharara, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a CNN legal analyst.

“This is it. This is very significant,” Bharara told CNN’s Jake Tapper, predicting that there will be a slew of revelations in the coming days about other grand jury testimony.

The department also obtained a second warrant to search the cellphone of conservative attorney John Eastman, a key figure in the plan to thwart the certification of Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021. It’s hard to know how long the investigation of the Department of Justice on the post-election period has developed with such high intensity. But there is at least one strong impression now that it is fueled by the progress made by the House select committee, a factor that would give this inquiry greater legal and historical significance.

The House investigation is also moving forward

There are also developments in the Chamber’s investigation. After expanding its investigation into the fall with the promise of more televised hearings, the select committee has reached out to another key figure in the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo. The former secretary of state and CIA director could attend a closed-door hearing as soon as this week, multiple sources familiar with the committee’s schedule told CNN.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chairwoman, told CNN over the weekend that the investigation was focused on obtaining testimony from other members of Trump’s cabinet. In another blow to the former president, the House Select Committee just released new audio of former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller stating under oath that no one had given the order to have National Guard troops ready to protect the United States Capitol on January 6.

The new evidence contradicts Trump and Meadows’ claims. And it also appears to hurt Republicans’ potential efforts to use their own investigation if they take back the House in November to show that Trump protected Capitol Hill and that the real problem on Jan. 6 wasn’t his mob attack, but security flaws. that they were at the door of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

The new open loops in Washington coincide with what was once considered Trump’s most serious legal threat, the special grand jury investigation in Georgia into pressure from the former president and his team to overturn a key state election .

The activity does not necessarily involve results in legal proceedings. The Justice Department’s investigation could close without charges. Any criminal action he takes may not reach as high as Trump. And while the House select committee is clearly preparing a devastating catalog of Trump’s post-election conduct, its findings may not affect the former president’s fervent base that dismisses the investigations against him as politically biased.

There are also questions about whether the mountain of evidence the panel uncovered showing the former president’s dereliction of duty in inciting a mob that ransacked the Capitol meets the evidentiary standard required for a trial.

“Serious Legal Jeopardy”

And of course, the former president has sauntered off without accountability for much of his colorful business and political career, often when his enemies thought they had him pinned down.

Another CNN legal analyst, Norm Eisen, a senior fellow for governance studies at the Brookings Institution, focused on Garland’s promise in an NBC News interview to prosecute anyone who tried to “interfere with the legal transfer of power from one administration to another.”

“We haven’t heard those magic words before,” Eisen told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Wednesday. He added that all the evidence suggested there was one person in charge of trying to interfere with the legal transfer of power: the former commander-in-chief.

“I think the indicators really point to serious legal danger for Donald Trump,” Eisen said.

The growing push for parallel investigations comes as Trump mulls launching his potential bid for the White House in 2024. The former president will insist that any legal action against him is an illegal and politically motivated effort to prevent him from regaining the presidency. Justice Department Arms Democrats Against Opposition Party. Garland has made clear in recent days that the department would not be deterred from its duty to the law if the person in question was a former president or was running a presidential campaign.

While Democrats have long hoped the web of investigations would eventually implicate Trump or damage him politically as he seeks a return to office, the Justice Department investigation in particular suggests a tense political period ahead. The possibility of a former president being under direct criminal investigation is serious. Under normal circumstances, it could be politically divisive. Given Trump’s temperament and willingness to tear apart national unity and incite his supporters against democratic and judicial institutions, the impact of legal action against him could be devastating in an internally polarized nation.

But it seems increasingly likely that the country will have to grapple with the question of whether a former president should be held legally accountable, and the implications of not doing so.

“The country has been through a lot and I am afraid the country will have to go through more,” Bharara said.

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