Former President Donald Trump's legal troubles escalated this week with significant developments in two of four criminal cases against him.
On Friday morning, Trump threatened, quote, potential death and destruction if he is indicted by the Manhattan district attorney.
That office is investigating Trump's alleged hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was his most explicit call to violence yet as possible criminal charges loom.
And it sparked swift criticism from Democrats.
Hakeem Jeffries: We have already seen the consequences of incitement from the former president.
He is principally responsible for inciting the violent insurrection that happened on January 6th but, clearly, he has not learned his lesson.
Laura Barron-Lopez: At least one top Republican, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, said, quote, there is no ace in America for political violence of any kind.
This comes as a federal judge pierced attorney-client privilege between Trump and his defense attorney, Evan Corcoran, in a separate investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
Today, Corcoran testified in front of grand jury.
He was also ordered to turn over his notes and transcripts of audio recordings.
In addition to these probes, Trump is being investigated by the Justice Department and Fulton County, Georgia, for his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
If he' indicted in any of these cases, it would be the first for former president.
Joining me to discuss this and more, Devlin Barrett, a reporter at The Washington Post, and joining me in the studio, Heather Caygle, Managing Editor of Punchbowl News, Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent and co-Author of Politico's Playbook, and Hans Nichols, a political reporter at Axios.
Thanks to you all for being here.
Devlin, I want to start with you because one of the most significant developments was in the classified documents case that the special counsel is investigating.
Essentially, what happened was the judge totally blasted through attorney-client privilege.
What does that mean?
Devlin Barrett, Reporter, The Washington Post: So, it means that one of the people closest to Donald Trump and one of the people who knows the most about the events that followed a government subpoena demanding the return of classified documents had to walked into the grand jury today and provide testimony.
Now, we don't know what the answers were, we don't know how contentious those question and answer sessions were.
Certainly, this is something that Trump, this is something that his lawyers try to avoid but they lost at appeals court level, and so Trump's lawyer was called into the grand jury to testify.
And that is a big step.
And it is really -- another example of how the documents, the classified document investigation, is really entering a kind of crunch time.
Laura Barron-Lopez: And, Devlin, that same judge, Beryl Howell, also rejected executive privilege claims in the investigation into Trumps efforts to overturn the 2020 election and ordered Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, to the former president, as well as other aides to testify.
What is the significance?
Devlin Barrett: So, I think, again, the significance is that they are forcing people in Trumps inner circle to come into the grand jury.
Now, I think sometimes people hear that close aides of the president have to testify and they think, oh, this will be evidence against the person.
I don't think we can assume that.
Remember, a lot of these witnesses are essentially people who support Trump and people who have argued publicly that they do not think Trump that anything criminal.
So, it's not necessarily that they are gathering evidence incriminating the former president, although that is certainly possible.
Part of what may be going on here is gathering a better understanding for prosecutors of what any Trump defense might be.
And that has been an important objective for prosecutors looking at the conduct around all of these events.
Laura Barron-Lopez: So, Eugene, former President Trump has not really talked about this week the cases that Devlin was just talking about, but he has been very explicit online, issuing threats in regards to Manhattan district attorney's investigation.
He posted a photo of himself holding a baseball bat alongside the district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
He posted online the threats of death and destruction.
This also comes as Trump is about to go to Waco, Texas, for one of his first big rallies.
And Waco is a really big place for the far-right extremist movement due to what happened in 1993 and the anti-government movement.
What is the message that the former president is sending?
Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent, Politico: Yes.
I think we saw this on the debate stage with Joe Biden when he said, stand back and stand by.
He does like a wink and nod a lot of times to folks.
Because if you talk to him and the people around him, they will say he didn't expressively call for violence, but the other people that are watching, that's the concern.
Experts will tell you that they are taking cues from the president when he talks about if you're not careful here, it's going to be death and distraction, that it is telling some of these folks, some of these right-wing groups that he wants us to do these things.
Whether or not Donald says it explicitly, that is what they have seen.
We saw that on January 6th and we've seen that over the years.
And I think that's something that the experts are so worried about.
People I was talking about Waco for tomorrow, his rally tomorrow, they are very concerned about the security of what is going to happen.
And also as these cases start coming down, if he is indicted in any of these cases, what that looks like around the country because of these calls for violence.
Laura Barron-Lopez: And, Hans, as Trump is attacking District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who actually recently received death threats this week, Republicans in the House are vowing to investigate Alvin Bragg.
Where is this attempt to investigate the investigators going to go?
Hans Nichols, Political Reporter, Axios: Well, you saw Republicans on the Senate side come out and say, well, not so fast.
This is not a great idea, which seemed to be like the first sign that this may not happen.
The other sign is just sort of the back-and-forth of the separation of powers.
This is a local prosecutor.
The Congress can try to subpoena them.
They can try to force him and compel testimony.
But to do that, you know you need?
You need the Justice Department.
And the Justice Department is controlled by Joe Biden.
It's a Democratic Justice Department.
It is really hard to see how you actually had hearings on Capitol Hill with a local prosecutor justifying an ongoing investigation and decisions he or she may have made, which puts us into sort of familiar territory in Trump -- the Trump era, and that is a lot of things are performative.
So, the president comes out and says this, a lot of lawmakers make their say, well, we are going to investigate.
But do they really have the power to really summon that guy, bring him before them and force him to answer questions?
So, I suspect, ultimately, it will be decided by the courts and, as we know, there are other cases going on that are probably going to overtake this one.
So, we're back to sort of these three investigations that Devlin is talking about and I do not know which one is going to go first, I don't think any of us do.
Laura Barron-Lopez: And so far, the district attorney's office has rejected those requests for documents from Republicans.
Hans Nichols: Pretty forcefully.
The rejection is pretty forcefully.
So, I think we know where Mr. Bragg stands.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Yes.
He called in unlawful, his office did.
But, Heather, speaking of attempts to attack Bragg and discredit this investigation into the hush money payments, there is also among House Republicans, again, an attempt to discredit investigations into the January 6th attack and Trump s efforts to overturn the election.
Just today, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene as well as a dozen other House Republicans went to the D.C. jail to visit with accused January 6 defendants.
There seems to be a pattern here.
Heather Caygle, Managing Editor, Punchbowl News: Yes.
And this is -- interestingly, this goes back to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the deal that he made with conservatives in early January after 15 ballots, right, to secure the speakership.
And part of that was to shed some light in their eyes on what really happened on January 6th and things like that.
Now, you talk to Democrats on the Hill and, frankly, Senate Republicans and they say a lot of this is nonsense.
January 6 was an insurrection, it was violent.
Why are we trying to rewrite history in the House?
And I think there is a lot of hurt feelings, even among Senate Republicans and anger about this.
But, yes, it is part of a pattern.
And Speaker McCarthy met with Ashli Babbitt's mom yesterday.
We saw that.
He also released those 41,000 hours of tapes, of security footage to Tucker Carlson, not any other media.
There was a lot of criticism about that.
And then we have Barry Loudermilk, who is a House member who is promising to investigate the January 6 committee and kind of say, here is what they did not look into.
So, I think a lot of this is just him, McCarthy, trying to make peace with the conservatives that gave him the speakership and keep them happy.
The question is, none of this looks good for House Republicans especially those that continue to downplay the violence of that day.
And as we get more into the election cycle in 2024 when voters are returning to the ballots, will they keep hammering on this or will they turn to something else?
Laura Barron-Lopez: And a significant amount of the Republican -- of the GOP base and Trump supporters still believe that January 6 was not as dangerous as it actually was and believed that the 2020 election was stolen.
But, Devlin, I want to come back to you because there are a number of indictments that the former president could be facing across these multiple cases that we laid out.
What happens next in the two we are specifically talking about right now, which is the special counsel's investigation in the classified documents as well as the Manhattan D.A.
's investigation into the hush money payments?
Devlin Barrett: Right.
So, let's start with Manhattan.
In Manhattan, there were signals last week that they were, according to people familiar with that grand jury, very close to voting on whether to indict or not.
And then something seemed to change a little bit in the public understanding of what was going on and that process seemed to slow down a little.
So, next week is going to be a week of waiting to see if that grand jury actually moves forward or if there is some wrinkle brought on by the last-minute sort of Hail Mary defense strategy to give the grand jury additional information to try to change their minds or change their momentum.
In the classified documents case, what we are really seeing, I think, is, if you look at the witnesses that they have come in, particularly Evan Corcoran, the lawyer who did the search originally at Mar-a-Lago for the documents that the FBI and the Justice Department decided was so problematic and so insufficient, I think that really -- the fact that that person was in the grand jury today really suggests that there is just a very tightening circle now of people that the government has not talked to.
And they have done a great deal of evidence gathering so far.
And now, it is really -- it seems to me like there are not that many more people to talk to once you have talked to Evan Corcoran.
Laura Barron-Lopez: So, you think that that investigation could wrap up soon?
Devlin Barrett: I mean, wrap up is always a tough term in federal investigations.
Most federal criminal investigations take years.
So, I don't want to overpromise anything or overspeculate or overpredict.
But I will say, like if you think about who the witnesses are, Evan Corcoran is the type of person who should be among the last to go in the grand jury, and that is how I think of this.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Devlin, if there is an indictment, what is the process after that?
Devlin Barrett: Well, if that happens, we will be in uncharted territory, obviously for the historical reason that a former president has not been indicted before, but also for a very practical -- a couple of very practical, technical reasons, that this is a person who has a Secret Service security detail that cannot leave him.
And so, I think it is not a specific predictable thing as to exactly how they would process someone.
But what normally happens when you are indicted, especially for a white collar crime, a financial crime, a nonviolent crime, you are generally allowed to self-surrender to the courthouse where you are processed, you're fingerprinted, you're photograph for a mug shot, and then you go and you appear in court and then you are released.
Something like that would happen if Donald Trump is ultimately indicted for something.
But you would have to do it with the sort of protective barrier of the Secret Service.
And, again, that is just something we have never seen before.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Heather, the one thing we have not talked about here is the way Democrats have been reacting to the specific legal developments.
What's their response been so far?
Heather Caygle: Well, I think until today, they were mostly silent.
Actually, I mean, they did weigh in just a little bit.
But today, we saw the House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries come out, as you played at the beginning, and pretty clearly respond to Trump's seeming threat overnight of like death and destruction, or whatever he wrote.
But for the most part, they have kind of stayed on the sidelines.
And this has been a pattern that we have seen especially since Republicans came into the House majority.
Part of that is you have a whole new leadership on the Democratic side that's trying to find its footing, but part of that, I think, they have realized that there are a lot of issues within the Republican Party, there are lot of differences between Senate and House Republicans, there is a lot of debate over whether they should support former President Trump and Democrats are kind of happy to step to the sidelines and be in the minority and just let Speaker Kevin McCarthy deal with it on his own, right?
And they don't want to add any fuel to the fire.
And so that is really what we have seen.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Well, as Devlin said, we are going to be laser focused on that Manhattan district attorney, the developments there and the grand jury.
But thanks, Devlin, for joining us and sharing your reporting.
Devlin Barrett: Thanks for having me.