Legal experts responding to news Donald Trump's legal team Monday morning walked into the U.S. Dept. of Justice agree it likely means Special Counsel Jack Smith is nearing a charging decision, but warn it could also mean the ex-president, under criminal investigation for unlawful handling of classified documents, among other possibly unlawful acts, might be offered a plea deal to avoid serving time in prison.
Trump's attorneys being at DOJ "suggests indictment anytime. This would be the last step, and if neither side offers something worth thinking about, then DOJ would pull the trigger," says former Dept. of Justice official Harry Litman.
"Plenty of possible angles they might choose to play including guilty plea for noncustodial sentence," he adds, referring to any possible plea bargain with no sentence behind bars. "But unless Trump side leaks, discussions will stay confidential."
CBS News' Robert Costa and Rob Legare broke the news that Trump's attorneys had gone into DOJ. Responding to that, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance offers up a few possible scenarios.
"The smart move here for Trump is a guilty plea to a misdemeanor if DOJ will offer one & a felony with no jail time if they won't," she says, pointing to her Substack newsletter where she discussed this very subject Sunday night.
"For those who dislike these possible outcomes (I would number myself in that group), it's nonetheless important to understand the prior precedent that will shape DOJ's charging decisions & any plea offers in this matter. This is Trump's best possible outcome, not the country's," says Vance.
She adds, "Trump seems incapable of saying he's done anything wrong. To plead, he'd have to say under oath in open court that he was guilty. It'll be interesting to see if he can do that, or would rather run the risk of being convicted of felonies that carry up to 20 years in custody."
"Good sign," says former federal prosecutor of 30 years, Glenn Kirschner, observing, "if Jack Smith had decided against charging Trump, there would be no need for this meeting. The last federal prosecutors often do before indicting is meet with the target’s defense team & give them an opportunity to present any evidence or arguments they want to offer."
Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County, Florida state's attorney on MSNBC Monday morning said he believes Trump will be indicted this week.