ARI MELBER: Good evening and welcome to “The Beat.” Our top story tonight continues to be former President Donald Trump’s federal indictment over his handling of government documents. There’s so much about the government’s case against the former president that is still unknown, so we’ve assembled a panel of crack legal experts to help us shed light on the many questions surrounding it. Foremost among those questions, of course, is whether the case will actually go all the way to trial or whether Trump will seek a plea bargain. Let me therefore put that very question to former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg. Chuck, what’s your sense about those two possibilities?
CHUCK ROSENBERG: Well, first of all, Ari, you’re absolutely right about that being the big question. It’s impossible to know whether the former president’s lawyers would be able to persuade him to plead guilty to some or all of the charges, though any responsible defense lawyer would certainly propose that. Nor can we know whether the Justice Department and Special Prosecutor Jack Smith’s team would be willing to accept a plea deal, unless it included terms such as a prison sentence, which Trump likely wouldn’t accept.
MELBER: You say “likely,” but of course…
ROSENBERG: …we don’t know.
MELBER: Because we can’t know for sure what’s going on inside Trump’s head.
ROSENBERG: Right. Or the Justice Department’s head… or, rather, heads… for that matter.
MELBER: It’s definitely a key question, though.
ROSENBERG: Yes, it certainly is.
MELBER: Okay, let’s turn now to former U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance. Joyce, Donald Trump isn’t the only one indicted in this case. His personal aide Walt Nauta has also been charged. What would you say are the chances that he’d be willing to flip and become a cooperating witness for the prosecution?
JOYCE VANCE: Well, considering the potential severe penalties that he’d be facing in the event of a conviction on the charges against him, he’d certainly be wise to consider it. But at the same time, he’s reportedly extremely loyal to President Trump, so it really remains an open question.
MELBER: He could turn state’s evidence.
VANCE: He definitely could. Or not.
MELBER: Interesting. Thanks, Joyce. We’re now joined by former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade. Barbara, where do things stand with regard to the judge in the case, Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by President Trump and was criticized for her initial handling of the government’s investigation? Will the prosecution seek to have her recuse herself?
MCQUADE: Time will tell, Ari. While it would be risky for the prosecution to do so at an early stage, if things go wrong and they wait too long it could significantly delay the case, which is something they don’t want either.
MELBER: So, hard to say.
MCQUADE: Yes, we’ll have to wait and see.
MELBER: Care to hazard a guess?
MCQUADE: My sense is that it could go either way.
ROSENBERG: Can I jump in with a comment, Ari?
MELBER: Sure, Chuck. Go ahead.
ROSENBERG: I just want to say that I totally agree with Barbara.
VANCE: So do I. Anything is possible.
MELBER: Fascinating. Thanks, Joyce and Barbara and Chuck. When we come back from the break, we’ll be joined by former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Carol Lam as well as by former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Jill Wine-Banks for a deep dive into what we don’t yet know about the details of the government’s case, including any surprising evidence the prosecution may — or may not — have against the former president. Stay tuned.
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