The decision to indict former President Donald J. Trump in Miami rather than Washington eliminated the risk of a potentially nasty battle over where to file charges, but it’s an entirely different matter that the lawsuit ends in front of President Trump. created a risk. – Friendly Judge Eileen M. Cannon.
On Friday, five people familiar with the matter said Trump’s criminal case, at least for now, has been assigned to Judge Cannon, who handed down an unusually favorable string of rulings last fall. The mission was first reported by ABC News.
Prosecutors had been using the capital’s grand jury to examine witnesses and hear evidence for months, but an unsealed case in the Southern District of Florida apparently involved at least one count of espionage law violations, obstruction and misrepresentation. suddenly filed an indictment for
Trump kept the documents at his private club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, giving Washington the proper trial to charge him with illegal storage and obstruction of national security documents. It was not clear whether it was earth or not.
Under federal law, the term “venue” refers to a place suitable for holding a trial. Prosecutors cannot choose a federal court in a country, but must prosecute a defendant in a district that has a sufficient connection to the events that gave rise to the problem. .
There was some connection with Washington. The National Archives and Records Administration, the legal custodian of White House records after the president leaves office, will be based there, and in 2022 the Justice Department will issue a subpoena asking Trump to return all documents marked classified. The grand jury used to obtain the letter is also based here. is his property.
And filing a lawsuit in Washington would have had some advantages for prosecutors. First, it is where the team working on the investigation lives and works. For another, the case could certainly have kept Judge Cannon from getting involved.
A lawsuit in Washington would have given Trump’s lawyers the argument that the indictment in an inappropriate forum would be dropped. Dennis M. Fitzpatrick, a former prosecutor who worked on national security cases in Virginia, said Trump’s own actions under investigation appeared to have occurred in Florida, not Washington.
Not only were the documents improperly stored in Mar-a-Lago, investigators also questioned whether Trump attempted to move or conceal the files at the mansion after the Justice Department issued a subpoena seeking their return. I am also investigating.
The known indictment does not specify where the alleged misrepresentation was made, but if it was in Florida, that would also be a good place to indict, the former prosecutors said. rice field.
“If prosecutors think they have a strong case, the goal is to keep the legal issue off the agenda and defend the case,” Fitzpatrick said. “A Washington, D.C. venue would have been a legal battle.”
The decision to indict Trump in Florida also means prosecutors may lose the advantage of taking the case to a jury in Washington, possibly more liberal. (Trump won 4% of the District of Columbia vote in 2016 and 5% in 2020.)
A jury in Washington swiftly convicted the rioters instigated by Trump in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Prosecutors have questioned whether they will win a complex case accusing members of the far-right groups Oath Keepers and Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy, but the law is rarely tested. As of Jan. 6, a Washington jury had not acquitted a single defendant.
In the more conservative state of Florida, the jury layers could be very different. A unanimous vote by a 12-member committee would be required to convict Trump.
Brandon L. Van Gluck, a former federal prosecutor who has also handled complex cases involving national security and classified materials, wrote in a legal publication last year that there were many reasons to bring the case to Washington. He wrote that there is He is used to handling classified information and espionage law cases, and jurors in Washington “seem not to have much respect” for Trump.
But Van Gluck said in an interview that special counsel Jack Smith believed there were real legal risks to filing a lawsuit in Washington and that filing a lawsuit in Florida would be wiser. said it must be.
“Given the constitutional right to be prosecuted where the crime occurred, Jack Smith soberly weighed the facts and decided a Florida venue was appropriate,” Van Gluck said.