Another indictment against Trump's efforts to undermine democracy could come soon
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
A third criminal indictment against former President Donald Trump, which could come as early as this week, stands apart from other charges already filed against the former president. This one is about undermining democracy in this country. It centers on the efforts to overturn the 2020 election and obstruct the peaceful transfer of power even as Trump remains the Republican front-runner for the 2024 race by a lot. Ty Cobb was a member of the legal team in the Trump White House. He's also a former U.S. assistant attorney, and he's with us now to talk about this case. Good morning, and thanks for joining us.
TY COBB: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
FADEL: So how quickly do you expect special counsel Jack Smith to move on this investigation into Trump's efforts or the accusations that he wanted to stay in office after losing the election and his conduct around the January 6 attack?
COBB: I expect he'll move no later than this week.
FADEL: And do you expect this case to be a strong case?
COBB: Yes. I mean, certainly, you look at prosecutors a little bit like artists, and the Mar-a-Lago document is definitely a Michelangelo. It's about - it's one of the tighter documents - charging documents I've seen. It puts the case together in a very clear narrative that almost any layperson can understand and certainly the defendants can understand. I expect this case to be much more complex because of the number of witnesses and the - and they'll have a larger number of issues to deal with. But I think they will put it together in a good narrative. And the reasons that Trump is being charged will be very clear to anybody who reads the indictment seriously.
FADEL: You refer to the documents case as a Michelangelo case. That's the federal indictment that's already here. Trump's facing 40 federal criminal charges in the case where he's accused of willfully retaining and mishandling classified documents. There was a superseding indictment last week that brought new charges that included an accusation that Trump was trying to get his employees to delete security camera footage. And today, a third defendant in that case is being arraigned, a Mar-a-Lago property manager and former valet accused of trying to delete that footage. How significant is this arraignment and these new charges?
COBB: So the new charges are very significant - the arraignment, not so much. The - you know, the new charges - you know, people talk about, you know, the potential for delay. The reality is, you know, there's probably only four hours' worth of trial proof that is involved in proving the new charges. You've got a couple of witnesses and some tapes, and they don't have any defense to it. It's not like they're going to have, you know, witnesses who say, well, don't believe what you see on the tapes or don't believe the, you know, telephone recordings that you hear or don't believe the emails that they sent. You know, you don't get to do that unless there's some reason to believe that they were manufactured and - of course, which there is not since they were received directly from the president - former president.
FADEL: So you see this as a very tight case, and you see it foreshadowing what you expect to be a very strong case in the third indictment - possible indictment - that we're expecting this week. But the Justice Department has a long-standing policy that it will not indict or criminally prosecute a sitting president. Should Trump win next year's election - he's the Republican front-runner by far - what happens to these cases?
COBB: Well, I think the simple reality is, you know, he has to win in order to avoid going to jail. You know, if he wins, the likelihood is - you know, there are several possibilities. He may try to pardon himself. People aren't convinced that's constitutional. That would go to the Supreme Court and back. That would probably cause him to be impeached. He could also appoint an interim attorney general without waiting for Congress to approve any nominee and have that attorney general just simply drop the charges, which is probably a more likely route to go. But that won't spare him impeachment either.
FADEL: Former White House special counsel Ty Cobb. Thank you for your time.
COBB: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.