Trump's latest courtroom setback may be the 'costliest' yet
Donald Trump (Photo by Mandel Ngan for AFP)

A parting decision by D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell to slap aside executive privilege claims from Donald Trump to keep former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows from testifying could be the most significant blow to date against the former president who is at the center of multiple criminal investigations.

According to attorneys Dennis Aftergut, Norm Eisen and noted legal authority Laurence Tribe, should Howell's ruling hold up she will have handed special counsel Jack Smith a gift that could end up being the key to indicting Trump for his actions surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In a column for Slate, the three wrote the ruling, "may be the costliest moment yet in Trump’s long losing streak against Smith."

Noting a previous report that Meadows was "at the very center of Trump’s plans to overturn his presidential election loss," the legal experts added.

"Evidence the House Jan. 6 committee gathered showed that he [Meadows] had advance intelligence about the coming violence. If so, Smith will want to know about any discussion with Trump about those early warnings," they wrote before adding, "Likewise, Smith will surely seek Meadows’ testimony about a damning conversation to which Cassidy Hutchinson, Meadows’ aide, testified in Congress. She said Meadows told her that Trump, upon hearing that the insurrectionists were screaming 'Hang Mike Pence!,' replied that Pence 'deserved it.'"

They also note that Meadows has over 1,000 text messages that were not turned over to the House select committee that investigated the Capitol insurrection and that they will be fair game for Smith to pursue.

"At any rate, Smith’s focus on Meadows suggests that the special counsel is preparing his endgame. In conspiracy cases, prosecutors proceed first to gather evidence from the least culpable witnesses and last to gather evidence from those who are most culpable and closest to the investigation’s target," they elaborated before adding, "As for Meadows’ endgame, with executive privilege off the table, his most likely recourse to block questioning will be the Fifth Amendment. Based on what we know from the Jan. 6 committee’s extensive public record, Meadows has serious criminal exposure of his own."

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