Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to reporters Friday, June 9, 2023, in Washington. Former President Donald Trump is facing 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents according to an indictment unsealed on Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This is a week you want to talk to Jennifer Taub, a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, a professor at the Western New England University School of Law, an expert on white-collar and financial crimes, and the author of Big Dirty Money. She has written regularly about Donald Trump’s legal woes for this magazine. I’m not sure when she sleeps. The Harvard Law School graduate and podcast host is now a Substack novelist with Mary J. Trump and E. Jean Carroll. Through the Trump legal battles, she’s done interviews with me, her regular editor. 

When news of the 45th president’s indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case by a federal grand jury in Florida broke on Thursday, June 8, I knew I had to speak with Taub. We chatted by phone just before the indictments were unsealed on Friday, June 9, and then exchanged emails afterward. 

The transcript is edited for brevity and clarity. 

MC: Jen, you have so many things going. I’m glad I don’t have to go through your agent at William Morris Endeavor to reach you

JT: I don’t have any chance at William Morris. (Laughter

MC: What did you think of the indictment? 

JT: I’m not clairvoyant. I just know how to read a search warrant. And if you look at the search warrant, dating back to August, the statutes or offenses that were identified are the ones that appear in the charging documents. The only questions I had were when this indictment would come down and where it would come down—whether it’d be D.C. or Florida, and if there were co-defendants or others charged even separately. We know it’s [Waltine] Nauta, the former president’s aide. 

This indictment confirms our suspicions that employees (one of them could be the mysterious Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker) cooperated with the special counsel’s team. Some of the most damning evidence comes from communications between the two cooperators and between Nauta and one of them.  

One of the cooperators, Employee 2, was close enough to Trump that Trump used his phone for some purpose.  

The surveillance camera footage showing Nauta and, at times, Employee 2 moving the boxes in and out of the storage room at Mar-a-Lago, allegedly at Trump’s direction, is crucial evidence. 

Nauta moved 64 boxes at Trump’s direction to his residence at Mar-a-Lago but brought only 30 back. The Trump attorneys were not informed, which made the later search by Evan Corcoran (“Attorney 1”) incomplete and related certification false by Christina Bobb (“Attorney 3”). 

My greatest surprise is how explicitly Trump asked Corcoran to hide or destroy documents instead of turning them over as required.  

The next, most shocking thing is the reckless way that Trump kept the boxes on a stage in the ballroom or in a bathroom or shower

Showing highly confidential Defense Department documents to a writer, publisher, and staffers!  

The most alarming aspect: 31 counts of violating the Espionage Act. Disturbingly the focus of almost all of the documents was on the nuclear capabilities of the U.S. and foreign countries. 

It’s bad enough that he kept these materials. One wonders what he planned to do with them beyond the two allegations of showing them off at his Bedminster club in 2021.  

MC: There had been speculation that Nauta flipped. It turns out not to be accurate, right? 

JT: Yeah, I did not think he had flipped based on what we read in the news. So, it looks like it’s probably just the maintenance guy and another employee. 

MC: Gotcha. So, this trial will be in Florida. What do you think of that? And Judge Aileen Cannon, who handled the motions related to the raid, may preside! 

JT: Well, let’s take those into parts. I’m glad that you separated them. First, Florida. A federal court in southern Florida makes a lot of sense because that’s where the action transpired. We also have the separate January 6 insurrection-related charges. You could just bring that case to D.C.  

MC: Judge Cannon…Of the judges in all the courtrooms in all the world. 

JT: Yeah. I love the Casablanca reference there. Now Cannon may have been selected because she had some familiarity with this case back when she did not wrap herself in glory. But there it is. A judge has a lot of control over timing, decisions about evidence, and how the attorneys talk to the judges in front of the jury, which can influence the jury. So, to the extent, people think she’s outright partisan—and it’s going to throw the case—that kind of sucks. But I have faith that she may choose to recuse herself. And secondly, even if she takes the case, she may be on the up and up. 

MC: So, despite her previous rebukes by the circuit court, you don’t think she’s disqualified herself? 

JT: It’s unclear whether she will ultimately preside over the case. And I guess we’re just going to have to see on Tuesday. 

MC: Gotcha. How do you feel about Merrick Garland? You’ve had mixed thoughts over the months we’ve spoken. 

JT: I’m really happy with Jack Smith. I still think Merrick Garland should have appointed a special counsel to deal with this case—immediately, and he should have appointed a special counsel to deal with all the other stuff he inherited directly. We can see how quickly a special counsel can move. You know, the thing with Garland is all he had to do here is not get in Jack Smith’s way. If Garland’s problem is inertia, he puts himself in the perfect position to be inert. If Jack Smith says, “I want to move forward,” the path of least resistance is to get out of the way, so I am happy about that. 

MC: Gotcha. Now, there’s a report that a couple of Trump lawyers have resigned, including the comically named Jim Trusty. Do you make anything of that? 

JT: It’s interesting. There might be several things going on. They had plausible deniability up to this point [if Trump lied to them]. But now, they’ve heard the truth. 

MC: We’ve got this Justice Department rule about not indicting too close to an election. If Smith indicts on January 6 issues, should we expect to see something soon? 

JT: I trust Andrew Weissman on this one. I think he’s probably right that we should see an indictment related to the attack on the Capitol and the interference with electors leading up to that, July or August. 

MC: And Fulton County, Georgia, DA Fanny Willis in August? 

JT: Yeah, I think so. She said she needed the courthouse cleared then. So, I think the beginning of August. I suspect Jack Smith will come in before her. 

MC: Wild. 

JT: The other thing worth considering, when it comes to the January 6 case, is who flipped on him. Did Mark Meadows cooperate or not? That case goes to the heart of our democracy. These document indictments were important because they showed no one was above the law. But January 6 was an attempted coup. And there must be accountability for that, not just for Trump, but for everyone who helped him. 

MC: Understood. I hope you’re getting some rest. 

JT: I want you to know it’s daytime, so I am not drinking but knitting.  

MC: It’s Friday afternoon. I would not begrudge you. 

JT: Yeah, I’ve got to stay fully alert because every minute of every day, more news is dropping. 

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Follow Matthew on Twitter @mattizcoop. Matthew Cooper is Executive Editor Digital at the Washington Monthly. He is also a contributing editor of the magazine and a veteran reporter who has covered politics and the White House for Time, The New Republic, Washingtonian, National Journal and many other publications.