On Monday morning, Rudy Giuliani’s legal team was forced to hand over a batch of documents at the request of Bernard Kerik’s legal team. With the former commissioner of the New York Police Department compelling the former mayor of New York City to spill a stack of documents, it might seem at first glance as if this was related to a case that took place in New York City. After all, the former commissioner was previously convicted on eight federal felony charges in the state of New York and was later given a presidential pardon by none other than former New Yorker Donald Trump.
It’s not related to a case that took place in New York City. In fact, this could be a big signal about the timing of indictments against Donald Trump. Though … it's complicated.
The documents in question are related to work that either Kerik, Giuliani, or both did as members of the Trump campaign team. However, the case the documents are being produced for is not one started by special counsel Jack Smith. Instead, the documents are being turned over to attorneys for a pair of Black election workers suing Giuliani for defamation.
Attorneys for Georgia election workers Wandrea "Shaye" Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman have been seeking these documents for months. However, Kerik attorney Tim Parlatore claimed the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege, as Kerik was actually working for Giuliani when chasing down claims of election fraud. Giuliani was also refusing to hand over his copy of the documents to Moss and Freeman’s attorneys while using similar claims of attorney-client privilege. Trump’s legal team was a party to both claims.
Last month, Chief U.S. District Judge Judge Beryl Howell ordered Giuliani to produce the documents, then sanctioned Giuliani for handing over an incomplete set of documents and for conducting a purposely inadequate search. Howell’s sanction included an $89,000 fine.
Kerik was reportedly on the brink of receiving such a fine today when apparently everyone—Kerik’s attorney, Giuliani’s attorney, and Trump’s attorneys—finally opened the floodgates. That allowed the whole stack—nearly 2,000 pages—to flow from Giuliani’s attorneys to Parlatore and then to attorneys for Moss and Freeman.
However, that’s not the end of the journey for those documents. As The Daily Beast reports, the deal cut with Howell also makes the documents visible to the special counsel’s office.
Trump’s team reportedly made this decision in the hopes that the big stack of claims collected by Kerik and Giuliani will actually act as evidence that Trump and his legal team had reasons for their actions after the election.
Trump’s decision to greenlight handing over these records represents something of a gamble. But Parlatore said the evidence could actually prove exculpatory, as it shows the Trump campaign actually did hear allegations of fraud—and engaged in what could be argued was a good faith attempt to investigate the claims by interviewing witnesses.
However, the fact that they were hiding these documents for so long (and that none of the legal claims Giuliani made in Trump’s effort to overturn the election were ever upheld) suggests that whatever is in these documents likely consists of purely unsupported lies.
There’s a big difference between 2,000 pages of people claiming fraud and even one page of someone proving fraud. Trump and Giuliani seem to be lacking that one page. Another big danger for these defendants is that these documents could potentially show they knew claims Giuliani and others cited in court were actually false.
In any case, there are two views of the results of today’s rulings. First, The Daily Beast suggests that the timing of this event “could indicate that Smith isn’t as close to indicting Trump as the former president has recently suggested.” After all, this is 2,000 pages of previously unseen evidence which needs to be read, reviewed, and evaluated for its effect on any possible charges against Trump, Giuliani, and others. So far there’s no indication that Kerik’s deal consists of more than allowing these documents to become visible. There’s no real indication that this is part of any larger plea deal with Smith.
If these documents might slow Smith’s roll, that would be another good reason for Trump’s team to release them. Because “delay” is Trump’s real first, last, and middle name.
It’s certainly possible Smith already has a good sense of what’s in these documents. He might have even seen copies of them from elsewhere. Any charges connected to Kerik or Giuliani—who says he has not received a target letter—could come later.
If Trump is being truthful (always an edgy start to a sentence) about already receiving a target letter, then it seems likely that Smith already has more than enough evidence to support proposed charges. Charges could be dropped, or added, at a later date.
However, MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann has a very different take on the timing of events. Weissmann feels much of the maneuvering underway by Trump’s team is in response to an appeal to the Department of Justice on charges that were outlined in Trump’s target letter. If that’s the case, Smith could reject Trump’s appeal and “seek the indictment tomorrow or Thursday at the latest in DC.”
Trump’s actions today in opening the door to Giuliani’s documents may have been a last-minute effort to derail the special counsel’s next move after the DOJ rejected a direct appeal from Trump’s legal team. Or … maybe not.
We should know within the next few days.