WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s lawyers Todd Blanche and John Lauro met Thursday with Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s team to discuss what made the former president a target of the investigation of potential election fraud in the 2020 election, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
Legal experts described this type of meeting as a courtesy before a grand jury hands up a potential indictment. Trump lawyers met with Smith’s team before his June indictment charging him with mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, after leaving the White House.
“All indications are that this is the final courtesy meeting being extended to Trump’s legal team to explain why Smith should not seek an indictment,” said Bradley Moss, an attorney who specializes in national security matters.
“A similar courtesy meeting was extended to Trump before the documents case was indicted,” Moss added. “Absent some unforeseen circumstances, Smith will not be persuaded by whatever Trump’s team presents.”
Barb McQuade, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at the University of Michigan, said prosecutors rarely change their minds at this stage in an investigation but find it valuable to listen for important facts or legal issues.
“It most likely means that Trump’s legal team is making a pitch to decline to file charges,” McQuade said. “They may discuss legal or factual weakness in the case, defenses DOJ may have failed to adequately consider or best interests of justice.”
What is the election fraud inquiry about?
No former president has been charged criminally, but Trump has already been indicted twice. The election-fraud inquiry represents what legal experts and historians say could the most serious set of potential charges against him because the allegations basically are that he tried to steal the 2020 election.
Trump revealed July 18 he is a target of the inquiry into offenses including conspiracy to defraud the United States, deprivation of rights and witness tampering. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be indicted. Trump has denied wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a political prosecution.
Trump said he was given four days to testify if he wanted. He has not reported that he testified.
The inquiry focuses on Trump refusing to acknowledge losing the 2020 election, recruiting GOP electors to replace Democrats in states President Joe Biden won, pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to recognize the electors when Congress counted Electoral College votes and urging a crowd outside the White House to “fight” for him on Jan. 6, 2021, before a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol.
Trump faces several criminal investigations
Another federal indictment would become the third set of criminal charges Trump faces. He was charged federally in June with conspiracy to obstruct justice and retention of national defense documents in the classified records case. He was charged in April in New York with falsifying business records to pay hush money to a woman who claimed to have had sex with him before the 2016 election.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in both cases. The New York trial is scheduled for March and the federal trial for May, both within the primary season when he is campaigning for the Republican nomination for president.
Trump leads GOP polls for president despite criminal cases
Despite his legal problems, Trump still holds a big polling lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
A Monmouth University Poll released this week said 54% of Republican and GOP-leaning voters prefer Trump, while 22% backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Other Republican candidates were in single digits.
Republican voters also seem unbothered by indictments, even in a general election match-up against Democratic President Joe Biden.
“Only one in four Republican voters express any real degree of concern (11% very and 16% somewhat) that the criminal indictments against Trump would make him a weaker candidate against Biden in the general election,” the poll said. “In fact, nearly half (47%) are not at all concerned about these charges being a drag on Trump.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump lawyers meet with DOJ prosecutors about election fraud inquiry