If former President Donald Trump mounts a third run for president, federal prosecutors are likely to make a final decision on whether to bring any charges against him “well before” the 2024 Republican primaries, a former US attorney told Insider.
Trump is weighing an unusually early campaign announcement, a move designed to crowd out emergent Republican rivals and shield him from the damning revelations stacking up from the inquiries into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Barb McQuade, who served as the top federal prosecutor in Detroit during the Obama administration, told Insider that a declared candidacy should not spare the former president from the Justice Department’s scrutiny.
If anything, she said, it would affect the timing of any case. McQuade pointed to the Justice Department’s longstanding policy to avoid bringing cases or taking investigative steps that could affect the outcome of an election.
“That usually results in inaction around 60 days before an election. Primary elections will not be held until 2024, so I don’t think a campaign announcement will have much effect on a DOJ investigation,” she told Insider. “I would expect charges, if any, to be filed well before then.”
In recent months, the Justice Department has stepped up its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election — and started to “get into the interior of a higher plot,” McQuade said. On a single day late last month, FBI agents seized the phone of John Eastman — the conservative lawyer behind a fraught legal theory to justify having then-Vice President Mike Pence block the certification of Trump’s electoral defeat — and federal investigators searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former top Justice Department official who advanced Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
Federal agents have also delivered grand jury subpoenas in connection with an investigation into a plan to create slates of so-called alternate electors to keep Trump in power. That investigative activity has unfolded against the backdrop of a separate inquiry by the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which has used a series of public hearings to tie Trump to the day’s violence and highlight how his own advisors saw his election fraud claims as baseless.
While the investigation is ramping up, McQuade said she does not anticipate any charges against Trump allies ahead of the midterm elections in November. With the 2024 primaries in mind, the Justice Department likely has a “target end date of 2023,” she said.
“I do think it’s realistic to expect, in the calendar year 2023, we’ll see some charges,” McQuade said.
“I’m not surprised we have not seen charges against Donald Trump yet. No. 1, I don’t know if they will find sufficient evidence,” she added. “It takes a long period of time to make a case where you can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”