MSNBC’s Chuck Todd speculated on Sunday that Attorney General Merrick Garland is poised to have a strong influence on the 2024 presidential election.
The reason why, he argued, is because the two most likely presidential contenders — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump — are both under investigation by a special counsel thanks to Garland’s decision-making.
The relevant discussion began with Todd being asked how large of a problem the classified documents scandal is for the current president.
“Look, it’s a huge political problem. I don’t know if it’s much of a legal problem, per se. But I think it’s a huge political problem because you don’t know where the special counsel investigation is going,” the MSNBC host replied.
“I mean, look, if you now listen to the rationale that Merrick Garland, the attorney general, used both for the decision to name a special counsel to investigate Trump and the decision to do a special counsel to investigate Biden, look, I don’t think it’s out of the question that the Hunter Biden investigation that’s currently being handled separately by a U.S. attorney in Delaware doesn’t get folded into a special counsel investigation,” he added.
This is true. The beauty of a special counsel is the leeway they have to investigate whatever they want that’s related to the primary scope of their work. It’s through this rule that former special counsel Robert Mueller was able to dig into all sorts of different parts of Trump’s life.
That said, the chances of the Hunter Biden affair receiving its own scrutiny seem low:
There are now two special counsel investigating what are nothingburgers. At some point both Trump and Biden had legal possession of these documents. What’s the big deal?
The real scandal is Hunter embezzling millions as the Biden family’s bagman. Yet no special counsel for that.
— Hans Mahncke (@HansMahncke) January 14, 2023
Concluding his remarks, Todd then observed that Garland is poised to have an outsized influence on the 2024 election.
“The point is these things are months. And I think what in the short term it means is that the most powerful person in deciding what our presidential race looks like in 2024 is Merrick Garland. The decisions he’s going to be making here going forward about whether or not to prosecute Trump … whether to prosecute Hunter Biden, things like that,” Todd he said.
He had a point.
If Trump were indicted by a special counsel, it could throw a huge wrench into his plans to run in the 2024 presidential election. And indeed, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal has said that he believes this is exactly what’ll eventually happen.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if I did this, or you did this, we’d be in jail right now. We certainly wouldn’t get a special master or a special counsel or the like. It would be a very easy case. It’s just the identity of the person, Donald Trump, that makes it different. But at the end of the day, I expect Trump will be indicted by this special counsel,” he said on MSNBC back in November.
.@neal_katyal: Mar-a-Lago is an “open and shut investigation,” and “at the end of the day, I expect that Donald Trump will be indicted by the Special Counsel.” https://t.co/N9SSt0retV pic.twitter.com/cEmSgyMyJr
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) November 21, 2022
Keep in mind he made the remarks before Biden got ensnared in his own classified documents scandal.
Also note that an indictment couldn’t stop Trump from running, though it could hurt his image and thus his electability.
The reason why it couldn’t stop him is because of the U.S. Constitution.
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States,” Section 1, Clause 5 of Article II of the Constitution states.
These three stipulations — someone who’s a natural-born citizen, who’s of a high enough age, and who’s been U.S. resident for at least 14 years — are all that must be met for one to run for the presidency.
As for Biden, could he also be indicted? Not while he’s a sitting president.
“Justice Department regulations block federal prosecutors from indicting a sitting president. Therefore, even if [the special counsel] concludes that Biden broke the law, he can’t charge Biden while he’s in the White House,” even CNN acknowledges.
Can’t indict a sitting President but you can indict an ex-one.
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) January 20, 2021
So that already gives him an advantage over Trump. Granted, he could still be indicted once he steps out of office, but that seems extremely unlikely to occur.
The most likely outcome — especially now that Biden’s been ensnared in his own scandal — is that neither Trump nor Biden will be charged, and the 2024 presidential election will continue as normal.
But as Todd hinted at Sunday, you never know …
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