Donald Trump Was Almost Off The Hook In Document Investigation, Until DOJ Received Damning Tape Recordings: WSJ

He was so close to being home-free.

604 points

Donald Trump is going through what is undeniably the worst legal peril he has ever faced in his life, as he wades through literal dozens of formal, criminal indictments against him, on both a state and federal level, including multiple felony offenses, that will go down in history books to be read and studied by our grandchildren some day.

But according to bombshell reporting from the Wall Street Journal, the scandal-plagued former president was extremely close to walking away from the infamous stolen document investigation unscathed and home-free. Instead, he’s now embroiled in a historical 37-count federal indictment, with felony charges that could collectively earn him a life sentence behind bars, all thanks to recordings received by investigators in the case that heard Donald Trump openly bragging about the stolen, highly-classified documents and then going on to share them with his aides.

It’s no real secret that the US Justice Department is, shall we say, averse to taking risks when it’s not absolutely necessary to do so. When you add in the fact that this was a case against a literal former United States president — uncharted territory so devoid of precedent, it’s hard to even know where to begin — suffice it to say that their reluctance to lodge charges that weren’t absolutely critical was heightened that much more. According to the WSJ, the DOJ had no intentions of lodging those said charges if Trump had just handed over the classified government documents that he stole, even after months of lying and stalling. But in the end, the DOJ was left with no choice when they received a bombshell recording that made it impossible to not charge Donald J. Trump for his crimes — 37 of them, to be exact.

WSJ’s Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman report that the Justice Department was highly reluctant to charge a former POTUS, and was instead in hopes that there would be an “off-ramp” that would allow Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland to avoid doing just that.

“Some officials at the time, even with evidence Trump might have obstructed the response to the May 11, 2022, subpoena demanding the production of classified documents, said their main interest in conducting the Mar-a-Lago search was to return any such material to the government’s possession,” the report reads.

However, “Momentum shifted around February of this year, when investigators got hold of an audio recording of a July 21, 2021, meeting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where Trump and his aides met with people working on an autobiography of his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.”

That damning recording was ultimately a smoking gun of epic proportions that meant there was no settlement option available to Trump or the DOJ anymore.

“At the time of the search and in the ensuing months, investigators had only heard rumors of Trump’s sharing sensitive documents with donors or other political allies, including on his plane, some of the people familiar with the matter said,” the report explains. “They hadn’t established whether such claims were credible.”

“Authorities appeared at times to give Trump’s team the benefit of the doubt,” the Journal writes. “In bringing the case, Smith appears to be continuing to take a careful approach, charging dozens of counts but deferring to Trump’s legal team in other ways that are unusual, compared with how the Justice Department treats most federal criminal defendants facing similar charges.”

You can read the Wall Street Journal’s full report here.

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