Some experts believe that former President Donald Trump’s claim that the US Department of Justice and Vice President Joe Biden are to blame for his legal issues is unjustified on either count alone.
Trump Says of His Legal Battles, ‘Coordination’ Is Common, Experts Say.
When Donald Trump entered a courtroom in New York earlier this month, he repeated a theme that was already well known to him.
In remarks to the media during the $370 million civil fraud case’s closing arguments, Trump said, “It’s a disgrace.” Due to the fact that he is unable to win a campaign in a fair manner, this is being done in conjunction with the White House and Joe Biden.
And at the same time that Trump’s legal problems are reaching a fever pitch, the volume and frequency of a particular claim that the former president and his friends are making are also increasing.
“Every case I am fighting is the work of the Department of Justice and the White House,” Trump stated in a tweet that he made on social media a month ago.
The accusation is a two-for-one charge, and observers and legal professionals have stated that the evidence does not support either count.
There is no evidence to suggest that any of the criminal or civil legal issues that Trump is facing are the result of the actions taken by the Biden White House. Biden has refrained from making public statements regarding Trump’s legal disputes, despite the fact that this is possibly the most significant electoral vulnerability of his potential opponent in 2024.
And to the degree that there has been communication between the United States Department of Justice and local prosecutors, such as the District Attorney of Fulton County, Fani Willis, or the District Attorney of Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, that is nothing more than standard and accepted practice.
William Jeffress, a prominent trial attorney who represented Richard Nixon after he left office, stated that cooperation between federal and state prosecutors is not only forbidden but also encouraged.
In addition, Phil Lacovara, who served as the former deputy United States solicitor general and counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, stated that federal and state prosecutors frequently communicate with one another and work together.
Trump’s journey back to the White House is complicated by 91 felony accusations in four criminal cases that might potentially go to trial this year, as well as massive civil action alleging defamation and fraud. This is despite the fact that Trump’s presidential quest for 2024 is gaining steam.
Through the discovery process, which has not yet reached its conclusion in the four criminal charges that the former president is facing, Trump and some of his co-defendants in the Georgia election-racketeering case are making a concerted effort to gather evidence that would substantiate their accusations of politically motivated prosecution.
This evidence has not yet been made available to the public. Experts believe that until that occurs, Trump’s hyperbole is unjustified.
According to John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s University and a former attorney practicing for the Department of Justice, “That allegation is nothing more than hot air; there is nothing to it, and there is no evidence.” This is nothing more than political noise-making.
In each of his four criminal trials, Trump has entered a plea of not guilty to all of the counts against him. An attempt to obtain a comment from a Trump official was not met with a response.
Ex-president’s allies echo claims
During the past few months, allegations of problematic cooperation between Trump’s prosecutors have been propagated not just by the former president but also by his surrogates.
Willis reacted angrily to the letter that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, issued to her in September of last year. In the letter, Jordan claimed that “there are questions about whether and how your office coordinated with DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith during the course of this investigation.” Willis’s response was swift and furious.
According to the response that Willis sent, “A charitable explanation of your correspondence is that you are ignorant of the Constitutions and codes of both the United States of America and Georgia.” “An explanation that is more troubling is that you are abusing your authority as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary in order to attempt to obstruct and interfere with a criminal prosecution that is being conducted in Georgia.”
In a monologue that aired on January 11, the host of Fox News, Jesse Watters, made the assertion that “it’s almost as if Biden is running the Trump prosecutions from the White House.” Watters based his assertion on the fact that James and Willis had visited the White House in previous years.
Watters reported that each and every one of Trump’s prosecutions can be traced back to Biden in a clear manner. Political lawfare is being waged, and Biden is the general in charge.
On the other hand, fact-checkers have pointed out that Trump and his aides have misrepresented entries in the visitor logs of the White House for ceremonial trips.
FactCheck.org claims that James visited the White House on April 8, 2022, when over 400 people attended a ceremony honoring Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation; in July 2023, he met with Vice President Kamala Harris and other state attorneys general regarding fentanyl; and on August 31, 2023, he attended an event honoring black women in elected office. The president spoke at the first event without meeting with attendees, and Biden did not attend the second or third.
At least one Trump supporter has filed a lawsuit alleging unlawful cooperation.
In a January 12 motion, former Justice Department employee Jeffrey Clark—who is also Trump’s co-defendant in the Georgia election-racketeering case—alleged that “the record shows clear and obvious collaboration between the State and the January 6 Committee and the Biden White House.”
Although the evidence of collusion is not listed in Clark’s motion, it does mention a New York Times story stating that Willis’ office requested and was denied permission to speak with two former senior Justice Department officials.
The move, which is scheduled for a hearing before the superior court judge over the entire criminal case on Thursday, aims to force Fulton County prosecutors to produce records of their correspondence with federal agencies.
“To determine whether they can establish a defense based on selective or political prosecution in violation of their rights to due process and the equal protection of the laws, all defendants should be aware of the nature of the state’s communications with the White House Counsel’s Office,” Clark contends.
“The requested information regarding contacts between the State and the White House Counsel’s Office may be material to the outcome of the case or helpful to the defense if it supports an argument that the prosecution of this case is tainted with partisan political objectives coordinated with, suggested by, or directed by the White House,” stated the former top DOJ official for Trump, who is widely considered a potential pick for attorney general should Trump win a second term in November.
In a brief in the South Florida federal documents lawsuit last week, Trump’s legal team said that “the Biden Administration clearly took steps to create a false appearance of separation from the investigation that it was driving,” adding to the claims of inappropriate cooperation made by the president’s legal team.
One of the pieces of evidence that Trump’s team presented was a letter from the National Archives and Records Administration dated April 20, 2022, in which it stated that it was “acting based in part on communications” with the White House Counsel’s Office. But according to the entire letter, which is an exhibit in a related court document, the White House had declined to get involved “in light of the particular circumstances.”
In a file from November, Smith’s office directly addressed Trump’s allegations that Biden was involved in his prosecution.
Smith’s office stated, “The defendant fails to bring forth any evidence to support this claim.” “That is because there is no such evidence; if there were, the career prosecutors handling this case would not be involved in this prosecution, and the current president has no role in this case.”
Rules of engagement
According to experts, it is standard procedure for municipal, state, and federal prosecutors to coordinate on matters that are connected or where there is overlap.
Former federal prosecutor and seasoned white collar lawyer Patrick Cotter stated, “It’s extremely common for local and federal authorities—particularly where their jurisdictions overlap—to discuss those cases and coordinate them.” “Coordination has always existed and will continue to exist.”
On the other hand, there are rules and restrictions about how that dialogue needs to take place.
Cooperation between federal prosecutors and municipal or state prosecutors is specifically covered in the Justice Department’s Principles of Federal Prosecution. It is noted that federal attorneys should “coordinate with those authorities as appropriate” when determining whether to take on or reject a case that may be prosecuted in another jurisdiction.
According to the Justice Department guidelines, “the attorney for the [federal] government should document these coordination efforts, where undertaken, when federal prosecution is declined.”
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure have exceptions that permit state and local prosecutors to obtain information about things before a federal grand jury through collaboration with federal prosecutors, even though matters before the grand jury, including witness testimony, are typically subject to mandatory secrecy.
Former deputy U.S. solicitor general Lacovara stated that “federal and state prosecutors have distinct and legitimate interests in prosecuting overlapping violations of both federal and state law,” making it difficult to see a credible legal objection based on a claim of selective or political prosecution based on the cooperation allegations.
“However, a defendant in Trump’s situation will undoubtedly protest that federal and state officials are ‘ganging up’ on him for political gain,” Lacovara stated. “Professional prosecutors need to have the fortitude to move forward in the face of such politically motivated threats to obstruct the administration of justice.”