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Trump Faces 'Major Step Toward' DOJ Indictment, Harvard Professor Predicts

Newsweek 10/7/2022 Fatma Khaled
Former President Donald Trump gets ready to speak during a Save America rally on October 1 in Warren, Michigan. Harvard law professor and legal scholar Laurence Tribe said on Thursday that the justice department seems to be taking a step towards possibly indicting former President Donald Trump for keeping classified White House documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving office. © Photo by Emily Elconin/Getty Images Former President Donald Trump gets ready to speak during a Save America rally on October 1 in Warren, Michigan. Harvard law professor and legal scholar Laurence Tribe said on Thursday that the justice department seems to be taking a step towards possibly indicting former President Donald Trump for keeping classified White House documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving office.

Harvard law professor and legal scholar Laurence Tribe predicted on Thursday that the Justice Department seems to be taking a step toward possibly indicting former President Donald Trump for keeping classified White House documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving office.

"This looks like a major step toward an indictment of Trump by DOJ for obstruction of justice" Tribe tweeted, sharing a New York Times article that reported that Jay Bratt, who leads the department's counterintelligence operations, recently told Trump's attorneys that the department believed that Trump didn't return all the documents he was expected to turn over to the National Archives at the end of his presidency.

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The Times report cited two people who were briefed on the matter and added that no details were provided about the potential next steps that the department would take to recover any documents it thinks are still in Trump's possession.

It is also not known whether the department has gathered new evidence that reveals that Trump still kept classified materials even after the FBI search of his Florida home in August.

Bratt's outreach caused Trump's legal team to split over how to approach the Justice Department, with one side insisting on taking a more adversarial stance when dealing with the department, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson said: "the weaponized Department of Justice and the politicized FBI are spending millions and millions of American tax dollars to perpetuate witch hunt after witch hunt."

"Short of informing Trump formally that he is now the likely target of impending federal prosecution, that's about as far as the Department of Justice could go—at least this close to the midterms—in the direction of signaling that an indictment awaits him," Tribe told Newsweek on Friday.

The FBI raided Trump's house in August after an approval from Attorney General Merrick Garland and following a tip received by law enforcement from an informant who is knowledgeable about the documents that Trump kept and where he kept them.

Documents retrieved reportedly included sensitive information about "highly classified programs" and nuclear weapons. Authorities also found dozens of empty folders that were labeled "classified."

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in handling the documents and said that he had declassified them before leaving office in order to take them to his house. However, former Department of Justice (DOJ) official Mary McCord said that he was not authorized to do so after leaving office.

Last week, Tribe said that the Justice Department should indict Trump for mishandling sensitive documents in light of Judge Aileen Cannon recently rejecting parts of the plan set by Judge Raymond Dearie, who she appointed as a special master to review the retrieved documents. Cannon, a Trump appointee, rejected an aspect in the plan that included Dearie's order for Trump's attorneys to submit court filings showing whether Trump truly thinks the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

"Judge Cannon is clearly wrong, but she's a sideshow now that the Court of Appeals has lifted her injunction with respect to the classified documents," Tribe tweeted at the time in response to Cannon's ruling on Dearie's plan. "On the eve of her stupidly extended deadline, DOJ should indict Trump and render her delays and game playing moot."

Cannon also extended the deadline for Dearie to finish his review of the documents to December 16 instead of the original date of November 30.

Newsweek reached out to the Justice Department, Trump's media office, and Tribe for comment.

Update 10/7/2022 at 11:13 p.m. ET: the story has been updated to include further comments from Tribe.

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