Spring Break: Christie’s Prediction of a Trump Conviction by Spring Just Hit a Snag

Below is a longer version of my column in the New York Post on the leaking of the interviews of former counsel to Donald Trump. The interviews could magnify the difficulties for both Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Special Counsel Jack Smith in their respective prosecutions.  These cases still represent a serious threat to Trump, but these prosecutors must first overcome a glaring potential contradiction. That does not mean that Christie and the other candidates will not get a “Spring Break” with a conviction, but it could prove more challenging even with highly favorable jury pools.

Here is the column:

This week, Chris Christie declared that “it’s over” for Donald Trump and predicted  that the former president would be a convicted felon “by the Spring.” He was specifically referring to the prosecutions linked to the 2020 election denial in Atlanta and D.C.

However, Yogi Berra would likely caution that, in baseball and litigation, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

Trump’s greatest threat of conviction remains in Florida, where he is facing federal charges related to his retention of classified documents.

But the judge in that case seems inclined to delay it, perhaps even until after the election.

And with reports that Biden will not face charges in his own handling of classified documents, Trump has a political rallying cry that — correctly or not — he’s being treated differently.

So that leaves the two cases surrounding the 2020 election.

In Georgia, a slew of former lawyers are taking pleas with promises to testify if called. Some of their depositions have been leaked, much to the dismay of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. She has reason to be alarmed because some of the leaked interviews hit hard at the weakest link in her conspiracy case.

For instance, Sidney Powell stated that Trump clearly believed that he had won the election when he was challenging the results in the courts and Congress.

Powell pleaded to misdemeanors for a deal that avoids jail time and preserves her ability to resume the practice of law. She notably did not plead guilty to the sweeping racketeering charges brought by Willis to link Trump in an effort to subvert the election.

I previously wrote that the Achilles heel of the criminal complaint was Trump’s state of mind: “As a threshold matter, one problem is immediately evident. If Trump actually did (or does) believe that he did not lose the election, the indictment collapses.”

That’s exactly what Powell argues. Trump had “general instincts that something wasn’t right here.” She added “I didn’t think he had lost. I saw an avenue pursuant to which, if I was right, he would remain president.”

That supplies a key defense for Trump: That he believed assurances from counsel that he had a case to make in challenging the election.

Powell’s statement will also present challenges to Special Counsel Jack Smith who has a parallel case in Washington, D.C. While both prosecutors benefit from heavily favorable jury pools in staunchly Democratic strongholds, it requires only one holdout juror to result in a hung jury.

Smith has admitted that Trump’s election claims were protected under the First Amendment, but claims that, at some point, they became criminal lies. But Smith fails to explain when that line was clearly crossed —  a dangerous ambiguity for free speech, particularly in the context of an election.

Smith ignores past election challenges by Democrats that were made without factual or legal support, including the challenge in Congress to certifying Trump’s victory in 2016 by figures like Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md). The statement of Powell only magnifies those concerns over the lack of a clear line between political advocacy and criminal conduct in future cases.

As part of his own agreement, former counsel Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty  to conspiracy to commit filing false documents. Again, the deal avoided jail time and allowed him to keep his law license.

His attorney, Scott Grubman, said that Chesebro “never believed in ‘the Big Lie’ ” and that he knows Joe Biden won the election. However, the question is what he told Trump about avenues for challenging the election. Grubman was quoted in the Messenger as stating that  he “do[esn’t] think” Trump should be concerned about Chesebro’s plea and Chesebro “didn’t snitch against anyone.”

Previously, Chesebro’s lawyers stated that nothing about his “conduct falls outside the bounds of what lawyers do on a daily basis; researching the law in order to find solutions that address their clients’ particularized needs.”

Both the prosecutors and media have maintained a conflicted narrative of a man who could not accept defeat and a man who knew he was defeated.

Trump has long been portrayed as a megalomaniac in the media who never apologizes nor accepts failure. It is perfectly consistent that a man long described as having an inflated self-image would not accept that he is a loser.

That long-held journalistic view is now a viable criminal defense.

The Georgia case has strong individual claims for crimes like unauthorized access to voting machines or areas. But that clarity is lost in the effort to establish a massive racketeering conspiracy to ensnare Trump.

While polls increasingly show Trump winning a general election against Biden, pundits point to these criminal trials as proof it’s all over.

However, none of these cases are truly slam dunks, particularly with the danger of hung juries.

In the end, both Willis and Smith are saying that a client can be criminally liable for taking the advice of counsel.  Yet, his former counsel still maintain that “I didn’t think he had lost. I saw an avenue pursuant to which, if I was right, he would remain president.” Willis will argue that not only the lawyers should be punished for these claims but so should the client in following their advice. Moreover, she will seek to use the lawyers themselves to convict their client for listening to them.

Former counsel Jenna Ellis quotes another Trump aide in saying that the court losses did not matter because “we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave.’” However, the man she now calls a “narcissist” did indeed leave. He left with counsel publicly maintaining their ongoing claims of fraud, including Ellis. The question is whether such bad lawyering can make a good case for the prosecution.

For candidates like Christie, it is understandable to hope that the courts will finally dislodge the hold of Trump on this primary. He, like others, look at this election, to paraphrase Richard III, as “the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of [New] York.” However, spring could just as easily bring more discontent rather than convictions.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.


207 thoughts on “Spring Break: Christie’s Prediction of a Trump Conviction by Spring Just Hit a Snag”

  1. What is even more interesting is that on Nov. 10, District Judge Amy Totenburg allowed a challenge to the accuracy of the Dominion ballot machines in Georgia. “The Court notes that the record evidence does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs’ case in the long course of this litigation,” she wrote. One report was filed by Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan. His report, produced in 2021, said Georgia’s system “suffers from critical vulnerabilities that can be exploited to subvert all of its security mechanisms,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Halderman said anyone with physical access to a voting machine had the capability to alter votes on the machine, and that someone who accessed the election management system could do more than change one machine. There appears to be a legitimate reason that Trump believed that the election was fraudulent. The evidence is only now being adjudicated and evidence will be brought to prove fraud. The trial will be overseen by Judge Totenburg, an Obama appointed judge, who believes that talk of the fraud being a conspiracy theory is not correct. Good luck to Fanni because her entire case just blew up.

    1. Fat Fani will be Nifonged, disbarred and inprisoned
      She won by voter fraud too.
      Who would ever vote for this incompetent starlet?

    1. Mr. Turley every week in Georgia we have information coming out about fraud in the elections. The governor and secretary of state are up to their necks in fraud.

  2. “Correctly or not”?? Mr. Turley isn’t sure President Trump isn’t being treated differently than Biden? His credibility is gone after that statement.

  3. Mr. Turley did not even cite the one thing that makes this all a sham. I the 1960 Hawaii Presidential Race, Hawaii was challenged by one side (matters not which, I forget) and thus BOTH SETS of Electors were sent, exactly what Trump was seeking to do. We all knw they stole the Election, hell Turley knows it, but he’s too afraid to say it out loud.

  4. So if a man believes he’s a woman he can enter women’s sports, enter women’s change rooms and even get drugs and operations to change his physiology. If Trump believes the election was fraudulent and he actually won then he gets treated as a criminal and is charged with every known crime and misdemeanor in the book. I’d like some Democrat to explain the logic here.

  5. “Trump’s greatest threat of conviction remains in Florida, where he is facing federal charges related to his retention of classified documents.”

    Completely false. It is in fact the weakest of the fake cases, because as was already ruled in Clinton vs Judicial Watch and Navy vs Egan a President is Constitutionally incapable of “stealing classified documents” – unless you assume the bizarre theory that said President INTENTIONALLY did not exercise his direct Constitutionally-designated Presidential power (such powers are not subject to any legislation nor court rulings) SOLELY so that the act could be considered a crime.

  6. In 2021 the GA State Senate had a committee look into 2020 Election Fraud and they found it in many ways that would have changed the election for Trump. They gave the report to the Senate President and Gov Kemp, but neither did anything with it. Favorito was one of the experts that was used by the committee so after this he went to the courts.

    1. There are two actions taking place in ga in front a judge one is Fulton county election board failed to maintain the mailin ballots. Serious election issue. The second is from suit from Clinton campaign that is being heard regarding the election machines and how they are manipulated. The Fulton county controversy will wipe the Rico claim out.

  7. Millions of Americans believe the myriad irregularities and illegalities in the 2020 election cost Trump the election. As Trump has said repeatedly, he believes the election was improper. Your article convincingly summarizes that there is absolutely no legal or moral case against Trump. How can this corruption stand? Where has America gone? Where is respect for civil rights and clear rule of law equally applied to all, what we recognized as Justice?

      1. Professor Turley, I believe has deeply rooted liberal beliefs and is also highly motivated not to offend those in opposition who may play some role in his career path. He should, however, be mindful that undue cautiousness can be viewed as a liability.

  8. How viable is any of this when there is STILL a case in GA, brought by VoterGA.org (founded by Democrat Garland Favorito) to SEE the 2020 ballots from Fulton County, where the election administrators in this suit have been defended by CRIMINAL defense attorneys who were not only proven to have lied in court to the judge about an investigation supposedly done by Brad Raffensperger (NOT done), and which the court circuit has stalled for the last six months by refusing to appoint a new judge after the former one was recused? In GA law the ballots are specified as available for public scrutiny. After Republican Governor Brad Kemp and Raffensperger appointed Dominion as the sole provider of voting equipment in the state, to the significant consternation to the residents in the state, BOTH of them PROMISED that ballots would be in the public domain. Obviously the have reneged on this promise. Meanwhile, the criminal defense attorneys for the Fulton County election administrators just recently resigned. At issue, more than six poll workers from the 2020 election filed affidavits saying that thought that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots seemed to be fakely generated from either a computer printer or a copy machine, because they had no fold creases, they had perfect circles ONLY filled out for President and Senator, and identical ink mark flaws from one ballot to the next. I think this case is going to be a disaster for Fani AND Jack.

    1. This case will only be problematic to these two die-hard demoncrat prosecutors IF it moves forward…the “system” is trying to stall it out…

    2. Well we saw the culprit doing just that and more on security video after (supposedly) counting had stopped for the night due to a busted water pipe.
      It boils down to this for me: Believe the Deep State/MSM narrative or believe what I saw with my own eyes.
      Trump won the 2020 election and there is a Resident currently in the Whitehouse.
      No one can convince me otherwise because I watch it, LIVE!

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