Exclusive: Trump lawyers in talks with Justice Department over Jan. 6 criminal probe

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The talks revolve around whether Trump would be able to shield conversations he had while chairman from federal investigators.

Over the past few weeks, investigators have aggressively entered Trump’s orbit, subpoenaing former top White House officials, focusing on efforts to nullify the 2020 election and running searches for lawyers who sought to assist these efforts.

The Trump team’s discussions are taking place with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, which is leading the investigation, and its lead Jan. 6 prosecutor, Thomas Windom, the sources said. The conversations have not been previously reported.

Conversations at this point focus primarily on whether communications Trump’s west wing witnesses had with the former president can be withheld from a federal criminal grand jury under Trump’s claims on the executive privilege, the people said.

The Justice Department anticipated a court battle with Trump over executive privilege. The question arose as grand jury subpoenas were issued to two former White House attorneys’ office officials and former Vice President Mike’s chief counsel and chief of staff. Penny.

Trump’s legal defense team has warned him that indictments are possible, sources told CNN.

Some members of Trump’s legal team have discussed his potential defense strategies on at least two occasions in recent months, according to two sources familiar with the matter, as they prepare for new developments in Trump’s investigation. Justice Department and a separate investigation by Georgia officials into his potentially criminal interference in the state’s 2020 election results. Rolling Stone previously reported that Trump had been briefed.

Trump asked his lawyers if they really thought he would face formal charges, sources said. Still, the former president expressed a strong dose of skepticism about his indictment, said one of the sources familiar with the matter.

Another source close to the former president told CNN that Trump has also asked members of his inner circle about a possible indictment, some of whom believe the president is concerned about the possibility of federal charges.

But a person close to Trump said he was significantly more engaged when talking with friends and advisers about the 2022 midterm elections and his possible presidential campaign in 2024 than he was during legal strategy briefings.

This person has described the former president as dismissive in conversations about his legal troubles, often repeating his “witch hunt” mantra as he claims the various investigations he faces are clearly motivated by political opponents.

A spokesperson for Trump said in a statement to CNN: “There is clearly a concerted effort to undermine vital executive and attorney-client privileges, entrenched in the Constitution, through a partisan political persecution.”

“How can a future president ever have private conversations with his lawyers, advisers and other senior advisers if such an adviser is forced, during or after the presidency, before a screening committee or some other entity, and be forced to reveal these privileged and confidential discussions?” the spokesperson said. “President Trump will not be deterred by witch hunts or makeshift courts from continuing to defend and fight for America, our Constitution and the truth. ”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Mark Meadows could be a key witness

In recent months, the former president has ignored the advice of some of his advisers to avoid speaking with former and current aides who have become entangled in the House Select Committee investigation into Jan. 6 and could do part of the criminal investigation, people familiar with the case. told CNN.

Trump was specifically advised to cut off contact with his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, whose actions leading up to and on the day of the U.S. Capitol uprising were scrutinized by the House panel, the House panel said. the people.

Two of Meadows’ former top aides, Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farah Griffin, have also been highly critical of Trump, with Hutchinson testifying in damaging detail about Trump’s actions on January 6 during his public testimony before the court’s panel. Room in June. Hutchinson is also cooperating on the DOJ probe.

Some of Trump’s attorneys believe Meadows could also be in the crosshairs of investigators and fear he could become a fact witness if pressured into cooperating with the Justice Department investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter. .

In response, Meadows attorney George Terwilliger told CNN on Thursday, “This is all vain and misinformed speculation, apparently by people who know little but talk a lot.”

Former White House attorney Ty Cobb says Meadows is ‘perfectly positioned to be the John Dean of this mess’, referring to the former aide to Richard Nixon who offered crucial public testimony during the hearings of Watergate.

“The reason [Meadows] is valuable is also why he is in danger: he was basically on Trump’s right-hand side throughout all of these exercises and participated in key meetings and phone calls,” Cobb said.

Still, according to a source familiar with the relationship, Trump and Meadows have spoken to each other on several occasions. Another source close to Trump described their relationship as ‘not the same as it once was’ while serving in the White House, but insisted they still maintained a relationship, even though Trump complained of Meadows in his recent conversations with other allies.

Meadows is known for attending fundraisers and events at President Mar-a-Lago’s former estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he also helped organize a donor retreat last April for the Conservative Partnership Institute, a group he leads with the former Republican senator. Jim De Mint.

Securing Trump’s endorsement for U.S. Senate nominee Ted Budd “was the last time Meadows was really around on a regular basis. Since then, he’s never played a significant role in the political operation or [Trump’s] thought process,” said a second person close to Trump.

CNN’s Pamela Brown and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.

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