U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith set a prosecutorial trap for Donald Trump, and the former president fell right into it.
The line in the Superseding Indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case is easy to miss, but it’s absolutely devastating: “The document that Trump possessed and showed on July 21, 2021, is charged as count 32 in this Superseding Indictment.”
That one sentence shows the irreconcilable conflict between Trump’s political offense and his legal defense.
The most shocking criminal allegation in the initial DOJ indictment involved Trump giving a recorded interview at The Bedminster Club where he knowingly and intentionally shares classified information with four individuals who didn’t possess the appropriate security clearances. While prosecutors possessed the audio recording of the meeting, the first indictment didn’t include any charges related to the underlying classified document.
Hear more Tennessee Voices: Get the weekly opinion newsletter for insightful and thought provoking columns.
The prosecutor has ‘damning receipts’ on Trump
Trump took the bait.
“There was no document,” Trump told Fox News anchor Bret Baier. “That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things. And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document. I didn’t have a document per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles.”
In the superseding indictment, Smith dropped the hammer on Trump’s flimsy explanation by clarifying that the prosecution does indeed have the document in question as well as several others. The prosecution updated the charges against the former president accordingly.
To make matters worse, prosecutors now allege that Trump, body man Walt Nauta, and new co-defendant Carlos De Oliveira sought to delete security camera footage after it was requested per a grand jury subpoena. If the allegations are proven, attempting to erase the tapes is indeed criminal and unmistakable evidence of a guilty conscience.
Trump certainly deserves the presumption of innocence, but Smith has damning receipts.
Sign up for Latino Tennessee Voices newsletter:Read compelling stories for and with the Latino community in Tennessee.
Indictment will impact the GOP primary
The updated indictment is a perfect example of Trump publicly attacking a perceived prosecutorial vulnerability only to have it blow up in his face. He needs to shut his mouth about the criminal indictments because the case built by the DOJ thus far has real teeth. It should not and will not be easily dismissed as mere political persecution.
At the same time, roughly half the Republican party is already looking for a non-Trump candidate. With the exception of Chris Christie, the rest of the GOP presidential field has kept their powder dry related to the federal criminal case.
That will change as the primary vote nears, the field narrows, and the remaining candidates become serious about wresting the nomination from Trump.
The indictment is quite literally a blueprint to attack the former president complete with his own contradictory statements about classified documents.
Sign up for Black Tennessee Voices newsletter:Read compelling columns by Black writers from across Tennessee.
Even if Trump is nominated, he’ll be weakened
“We also need to fight this battle by collecting intelligence and then protecting, protecting our classified secrets,” Trump said on September 6, 2016. “We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified.”
Pressing Trump to explain his prior comments and the DOJ’s allegations against him doesn’t even require a full-out attack, but it puts him in either legal or political jeopardy.
If Trump manages to survive the primary, he’s a fatally flawed opponent to President Joe Biden. Even a barely-there Biden is capable of hammering away at Trump’s legal vulnerabilities in an appeal to swing voters. In spite of his popularity with Republicans, Trump clearly isn’t the GOP’s best chance to win back the White House.
Trump is stuck in a vice between a strong criminal case and politicians increasingly willing to use it against him. We now know for sure that federal prosecutors are paying close attention to how he responds.
USA TODAY Network Tennessee Columnist Cameron Smith is a Memphis-born, Brentwood-raised recovering political attorney raising four boys in Nolensville, Tenn., with his particularly patient wife, Justine. Direct outrage or agreement to firstname.lastname@example.org or @DCameronSmith on Twitter. Agree or disagree? Send a letter to the editor to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: How Donald Trump fell into the special prosecutor Jack Smith’s trap