Andrew Weissmann, the former counsel of the FBI and prosecutor for Robert Mueller's special counsel team, said that recent reports that the FBI is questioning more and more people suggests that the investigation into the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago is moving much quicker than previously understood.
On a panel with former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, Frank Figliuzzi, Weissmann explained that the fact that the Justice Department is seeking information from Trump's personal valet, Walt Nauta and the Presidential Records Act appointed aide Kash Patel "is a real sign that the investigation is way past the beginning stages."
"I'm particularly intrigued by the fact that the government appears to be seeking an order from the chief judge of the D.C. District Court compelling Mr. Patel to testify," Weissmann continued. "That is -- that's a very bold step to be taking at this point. It makes it clear that the government is not looking to bring a criminal case against Mr. Patel, but is willing to immunize him and put him in the grand jury, because they want to know the inside story of what he has to say, particularly, I would think, about the alleged declassification of documents. And the same with Mr. Nauta."
He explained that the "strong grand jury process" gives the government the ability to compel testimony from those aides closest to Trump.
"Obviously, if you're the target of an investigation, that is a difficult situation to be in because you're constantly guessing about what the government knows," Weissmann continued. "And I think in Donald Trump's case, trying to think how to thwart that — can be a form of obstruction if he engages in it."
Over the past several months since the document scandal began, Kash Patel has been all over the map when it comes to his defense of Donald Trump. At one point he falsely claimed that the former president can declassify documents by simply standing over them and saying "they're declassified." In another interview, he claimed that Trump will never get in trouble because the General Services Administration (GSA) packed up Trump's boxes and they were the ones who somehow forced Trump to steal the documents.
It isn't true, as Figliuzzi explained, noting that the GSA asked the White House to sign a form saying that they packed the boxes "and that whatever is in there is necessary for you when you move out of the office." It's unknown who signed that document from the White House, but it is likely available via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Figliuzzi also said that Patel can get out of trouble by saying he simply didn't know, despite his legal education, that Trump had no right to the documents and couldn't magically declassify them.
"But the key to Patel is whether he had direct conversations with Trump or those immediately around Trump about obstructing, by saying, 'Hey, I'm going to do this for you, boss. I'm going to say, you declassified these. And I'm going to make that argument that I somehow knew about that.' Maybe he's clairvoyant. I don't know. You and I talked about this before. There has to be a tangible process. There has to be a defensible process around the declassification of documents. And there's no evidence here. And Trump knows that, and Kash Patel knows that."
Figliuzzi also said that Patel might be someone, like many of those around Trump, who wants to take the fall and save Trump, regardless of what that means.
"Let's remember something, Trump was thinking about making Patel either the deputy director of the CIA or the deputy director of the FBI," he also recalled. "By the way, those are career positions. You just don't grab somebody off the street for those. But that is the influence that Patel had with Trump, and vice versa. So, he's the fascinating piece of this."
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