Donald Trump’s legal team is arguing that the Justice Department should close the federal probes into the former president and allow the 2024 presidential campaign season, which is already in full swing, to continue “without interference” – the former president’s latest attempt to politicize investigations against him.
A Trump spokesperson said on Wednesday that the legal team is reaching out to Attorney General Merrick Garland directly and requesting a meeting to share unspecified improprieties in special counsel Jack Smith’s probes, including what they are calling “prosecutorial misconduct and overreach.”
“Our hope is that he will understand that the right thing to do is close his file on this matter and allow the Presidential campaign to move forward without interference,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
A source familiar with Trump’s legal team said that they also expect to make their argument with Garland about why the former president shouldn’t be indicted.
But it remains to be seen if Garland would consider holding such a meeting, especially as Smith is operating independently, or if the request would be viewed as a serious legal effort – and not just a public relations ploy – as Trump hits the campaign trail while also facing multiple criminal investigations.
Defense attorneys sometimes meet with prosecutors when a charging decision is imminent. But sources familiar with the probes told CNN that Smith has not informed Trump’s attorneys that he is close to such a decision.
As CNN has reported, Smith appears to be in the final investigative stages.
Trump publicly shared a one-paragraph letter from his attorneys to Garland on Tuesday, seeking the meeting to discuss Smith’s investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
It’s unclear whether Garland has even received the letter, which Trump blasted out on social media.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
“I think what they’re asking for is the only thing they can ask for, if they genuinely believe there’s been misconduct,” said Ty Cobb, an attorney in the White House who represented Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
If Trump’s legal team has a specific complaint about Smith or his prosecutors, “the only place to go is to the principal” – which is Garland, Cobb said. “It might not be crazy” from a legal perspective.
Trump attorneys John Rowley and Jim Trusty wrote in their letter that “no President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion.”
Tuesday’s letter also complained that Trump was being treated unfairly in comparison to President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, who is under investigation by the Trump-appointed US attorney in Delaware.
Last month, Hunter Biden’s attorneys met with career officials from the Justice Department’s tax division and the US attorney after Biden’s attorneys had asked for an update on the case.
But it would be unusual for Garland to meet with Trump’s legal team given the political sensitivities of the case and of DOJ regulations around the special counsel and how much autonomy the office is given. Smith was appointed by Garland just days after Trump announced he was running for president in 2024.
As special counsel, Smith has the authority to make his own prosecution decisions, without Garland’s approval. But Garland has some authority to review a special counsel’s work.
“Some folks are comparing the meeting Hunter Biden attys had with DOJ with this meeting request. Key difference – Jack Smith is Special Counsel. Smith is not subject to the day-to-day oversight of *any* person at DOJ, including Garland, per DOJ regs,” tweeted Anthony Coley, a former DOJ spokesman.
But the optics of refusing to meet with a former president’s attorneys could prove complicated for the Justice Department
On Saturday, former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore told CNN that the legal team had discussed ways to “educate” Garland but that another Trump adviser had stood in the way.
“As we’re coming down to the end of this investigation where Jack Smith and ultimately Merrick Garland is going to make a decision as to what to do, as we put together our defense strategy to educate Merrick Garland as to how best to handle this matter, (Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn) was preventing us from engaging in that strategy,” Parlatore said.
A spokesperson for Trump called Parlatore’s statements “categorically false.”
This isn’t the first time that Trump has tried to send a message to Garland. Three days after the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last summer, a lawyer for Trump spoke with then-lead prosecutor Jay Bratt on the phone, delivering a message from Trump to Garland, according to a Trump court filing.
“The message was as follows: President Trump wants the Attorney General to know that he has been hearing from people all over the country about the raid. If there was one word to describe their mood, it is ‘angry.’ The heat is building up. The pressure is building up. Whatever I can do to take the heat down, to bring the pressure down, just let us know,” the filing said.
During Mueller’s investigation into Trump, which took place over the first half of Trump’s presidency, the former president’s attorneys were in contact with the special counsel’s team. The lawyers engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth over whether Trump would voluntarily agree to sit for an interview with the special counsel’s office, which Trump did not ultimately do.
Despite Trump’s constant barrage of attacks on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who supervised the special counsel investigation after Sessions recused himself – it does not appear there was a meeting between Rosenstein and Trump’s legal team during the course of the Mueller investigation.