When Special Counsel Jack Smith walked before cameras on Friday after the release of the Trump 44-page indictment against former President Donald Trump, he started with arguably his most difficult case to make.
He declared “we have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone.”
After years of scandal and documented political bias by key Justice officials, the line likely left many skeptical, assuming many were even watching.
The indictment was clearly a pitch to the public that this is a prosecution entirely removed from recent history.
We’re also meant to not think about the fact that the Biden Administration is charging the leading candidate to opposed him in the upcoming election.
This indictment has merit, but the Justice Department lost the right to expect trust from the citizens years ago — long before the damning Inspector General’s Report and the recent report of Special Counsel John Durham.
To make matters worse, the same suspects have surfaced to celebrate Trump’s expected demise — and remind the public the perceived double standard in Washington.
Peter Strzok, the FBI special agent who was fired over his anti-Trump bias in the Russian collusion investigation, cheered the indictment by tweeting a photo of handcuffs with Trump’s image.
Strzok seems to think that it is a good thing for Smith to remind everyone of how he promised his colleague and lover Lisa Page that she did not have to worry about Trump being elected because they had an “insurance policy” to “stop it.”
Hillary Clinton went on social media to hawk her line of merchandize mocking the case against her for storing classified material on her personal server and then destroying tens of thousands of emails sought by the Congress.
She sent out a picture mocking Trump while wearing her “But Her Emails” hat.
With millions of Americans wondering why Trump is being charged but Clinton was given a pass, Clinton decided to do a victory lap.
And hey, why not: James Comey is back.
It was Comey who declined to prosecute Clinton despite finding that she violated federal rules and handled classified material “carelessly.” He then launched a Russian collusion investigation that Durham found lacked minimal support against Trump.
Here's what to know about former President Donald Trump's federal indictment
Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to mishandling classified White House documents that were recovered at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump unlawfully kept hundreds of documents after leaving office — including papers detailing America’s conventional and nuclear weapons programs, potential weak points in US defenses, and plans to respond to a foreign attack, federal prosecutors charged Friday.
The 45th president stored boxes containing the documents throughout his estate, including “a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room,” according to a 49-page indictment filed in Miami federal court Thursday.
Follow the Post’s coverage of former President Trump’s federal indictment
The indictment against Trump was unsealed hours after the 76-year-old announced he had been charged by Jack Smith, the special counsel tapped in November to examine Trump’s retention of official documents at Mar-a-Lago.
The indictment is the former commander in chief’s second since leaving office and marks the first time in US history a former president has faced federal charges.
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg related to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election.
Nevertheless, Comey chose this month to declare that, in the 2024 election, “it has to be Joe Biden.”
For critics, that is consistent with his views and actions before he was fired as FBI director.
After Trump was indicted in a raw political prosecution in New York, Comey also went public to declare it a “good day.”
So in the court of public opinion, past history and hypocrisy may mean that few are swayed about whether they back Trump or not. Which leaves the criminal court.
This indictment has some devastating elements, including an audiotape in which Trump tells two visitors about a highly classified attack plan on Iran while admitting that it remained unclassified.
That tape directly contradicts his past claims of declassification and suggests that Trump was using the document as a type of trophy.
There are also damaging statements from former staff and counsel alleging that Trump actively sought to conceal documents.
Smith is now left in a battle not with Trump but time.
There are a variety of challenges expected from the Trump team, including arguing that the government misused the civil statute of the Presidential Records Act to launch a criminal prosecution.
They are likely to cite a 2012 opinion that Bill Clinton could remove classified tapes with foreign leaders — even if the tapes are designated to be presidential records.
Amy Berman Jackson declared “the [Presidential Records Act] does not confer any mandatory or even discretional authority on the archivist. Under the statute, this responsibility is left solely to the president.”
The Trump team is likely to litigate that and other questions.
While there are good-faith arguments to make in rebuttal, it will take time.
And if enough time passes, the ultimate judgment in the case will be the millions of jurors in the coming election.
Not only can Trump pardon himself, but fellow candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy has also suggested that they will also pardon him.
Smith’s case could end with a stroke of a pen.
It seems for both Comey and Smith, it has to be Biden in 2024.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.