Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks on Trump: ‘I think he’s toast.’
Trump is sinking deeper every day into legal trouble with a Grand Jury this Wednesday possibly indicting him on illegal possession of documents with possible charges up to and including espionage and in Georgia he faces now conspiracy and racketeering charges that stretch across state borders. All of this doesn't include the investigation of Trump for inciting the coup of Jan. 6, 2021 and the attack on the Capitol or his indictment in New York for paying hush money to a porn star to influence the outcome of this first election to the presidency or the guilty verdict in the rape charges case stemming from his attack on a woman in a New York department store. | Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON — Watergate Deputy Special Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks has a simple, pithy phrase to sum up Donald Trump’s ever-increasing constitutional and legal troubles.

“I think he’s toast,” she says.

Adds another veteran former prosecutor, Glenn Kirschner: “We should be on indictment watch.”

Banks came to national prominence as part of the Watergate special prosecution team in 1974. The Chicago native was an aggressive prosecutor of the Nixon Watergate co-conspirators.

And even though the top defendant, former President Richard Nixon, was pardoned by Gerald Ford, the D.C. grand jury named him “an unindicted co-conspirator” in Watergate only because Banks’s boss, Leon Jaworski, concluded Nixon couldn’t be indicted while still in office.

The experience is relevant because former Republican Oval Office occupant Trump faces conspiracy charges, too, adds another former career prosecutor, Kirschner. Specifically, he’s alerting the country that there soon may be at least one grand jury indictment of Trump, in D.C., then another in Atlanta.

And the second one may involve conspiracy, just as Watergate did, only broader and worse.

The first case to surface against Trump says Kirschner, who served six years as an Army prosecutor and 24 in the U.S. Attorney’s office for D.C.—including trying racketeer-influenced and corruption organizations (RICO) cases–will probably involve Trump’s illegal removal of classified documents to his Mar-A-Lago estate.

The cases Kirschner and Banks refer to include Trump’s admitted absconding with classified documents, which are really U.S. government property, to his Florida estate at Mar-A-Lago.

At Mar-A-Lago, the documents were left out in public for anyone, including potential “buyers” who might pay for the information in the documents, to see. They even were scattered about the floor of an unsecured building on the estate.

The other case is the expanding racketeering investigation in Georgia of Trump’s plan to steal the state’s electoral votes. The probe by Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fani Willis and her staff, has now extended to people—such as Trump—and states beyond Georgia, the Washington Post reported.

The first action may be in the classified documents case, Kirschner said. It’s one of two cases against Trump which Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, himself a former prosecutor, is probing. The other is Trump’s involvement with and direction of the Jan. 6, 2021 invasion, insurrection, and coup d’état attempt at the U.S. Capitol.

“The case is so strong. You cannot imagine his getting away with this,” Banks said about former Oval Office occupant Trump. “I’m wearing a toast pin today because I think he’s toast.”

“When we’re handling large-scale investigations, big RICO-style conspiracy cases, what we do is we try to present all of the witnesses, and all of the evidence, the documents, the people we subpoenaed, the audio tapes, the surveillance tapes, perhaps of people moving boxes around,” Kirschner explained about prosecutors’ usual practices when presenting their cases to grand juries.

“Then we take a step back,” sending the jurors home, then recalling them after “we produce a soup-to-nuts memo laying out all the evidence and all the charges and then make a decision about what charges we ask the grand jury to vote on.

“Of course, in this (documents) case, there is one special step: Jack Smith, the special counsel, has to present his recommendations to Merrick Garland,” the Attorney General.

At least twice, however, Trump has in public, handed the prosecutors evidence in the documents case—on a verbal silver platter.

Fewer than three weeks ago, in CNN’s rigged “town hall” with his faithful adherents, Trump admitted taking the documents. He also bragged about it during a 2021 outing at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where he specifically said one multi-page document dealt with “war plans against Iran.”

“I was there and I took what I took,” Trump said on CNN. “I had every right to do it,” he added, in an echo of a statement former President Richard Nixon made to David Frost: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

“I didn’t make a secret of it,” Trump continued on CNN about taking the documents. “You know, the boxes were stationed outside of the White House.” “Outside the White House,” in this case, means Mar-A-Lago.

Trump boasting at his club

CNN also reported “Jack Smith has a recording of… Trump boasting at his Bedminster, N.J., club in 2021 that he had a highly classified multipage document relating to war plans against Iran…The reported sounds of paper rustling suggest Trump might have had a document in hand. According to news reports, he shared the substance of the document with others in the room, including biographers with no security clearance.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), meanwhile, compiled and posted citations of the U.S. Code sections Trump has broken in the documents case, while cautioning some charges may be harder to prove than others

The top one covers “willfully and unlawfully” removing any classified document from any public office of the U.S. “with the intent to retain” it “in an unauthorized location.” That’s what Trump did when he transported the boxes of documents to the Mar-A-Lago storage room after leaving the Oval Office. Punishment is a fine, five years in prison, or both.

A separate offense, under that same law, makes it a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, to not only remove the documents but conceal them.

“The president, as chief executive officer of the United States, is plainly an ‘officer…of the United States’ as Trump himself admitted in separate litigation,” CREW noted.

“Moreover, the FBI’s August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago clearly retrieved classified documents that were stored at an unauthorized location. Trump admitted he knowingly took these documents from the White House and illustrated his intent to retain them by his failure to comply with a federal subpoena to turn them over.”

Trump claims he verbally declassified the documents, but there’s no record of that—except his bragging. And classified markings were still on the documents, not crossed out, when the FBI arrived.

While Kirschner focused on the D.C. investigation of Trump’s illegal document removal, his comment about RICO-style (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) conspiracy cases also would cover Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fani Willis’s investigation of Trump’s attempt to steal swing state Georgia’s electoral votes in 2020.

The Georgia law is broad enough to let Willis probe, if she chooses, anyone engaged in the racketeering conspiracy—such as Trump, his consigliere Rudy Giuliani, who flatly lied in an open hearing by Georgia legislators on alleged “fraud”–even if the people or firms involved are in other states.

What’s unclear, and what Willis may discuss when she unveils the Georgia indictments in August, is whether her RICO case will cover aiders and abettors of Jan. 6. If so, her charges could include notorious Trumpite lawmakers, such as Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Scott Perry, R-Pa., and funders of insurrection. The insurrection cost at least $4.3 million.

Citing sources who declined to be named because of the secret grand jury proceedings, The Washington Post reported Willis is pushing for an indictment by the end of August, using Georgia’s more-expansive RICO law. Conviction leads to jail sentences of up to 20 years.

The reason for the expansion, the Post said, is to show the grand jurors, when she seeks an indictment, that the RICO conspiracy in Georgia was not “a one-off” incident, but part of a pattern.

“Georgia’s RICO statute is basically two specified criminal acts that have to be part of a pattern of behavior done with the same intent or to achieve a common result or that have distinguishing characteristics,” right-wing Heritage Foundation Vice President John Malcolm, a former Atlanta-based federal prosecutor, told the Post. “It’s very broad. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to charge a former president, but that also doesn’t mean she can’t do it or won’t do it.”

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.