Special counsel Jack Smith has had it out for former President Donald Trump long before he filed the first of two indictments against him, so of course he's been gleeful at letting the world know he was able to flip one of Trump's Mar-A-Lago employees to testify against him that security footage was allegedly deleted to hide the presence of classified documents from authorities.
Smith filed on Tuesday to say that "Trump Employee Number 4," suspected to be Yuscil Taveras, changed his testimony after dumping Trump lawyer Stanley Woodward and getting his own public defender.
“Immediately after receiving new counsel,” Smith’s office said in the filing, Taveras retracted his prior testimony and “provided information that implicated” Trump and his two alleged co-conspirators “in efforts to delete security camera footage.”
Sources said that Taveras received a target letter from Smith in June, saying that Smith knew Taveras wasn't being truthful in his testimony and that Smith wouldn't prosecute him for perjury if he changed his testimony.
Part of the indictment described a situation in detail in which Trump and two alleged co-conspirators had asked Taveras to delete security footage that included aides moving boxes of documents to a different location.
Taveras may be the cause of the superseding indictment against Trump, aide Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliviera, a property manager at Mar-A-Lago.
These charges may be some of the strongest against Trump now that the prosecution has flipped a witness, but they are still federal charges from which Trump could pardon himself if he is both convicted and elected president.
While no president has ever pardoned himself before, prosecutors used to be much more careful not to bring spurious charges against someone who had been president and may be president again in the future.
A precedent was also set by the pardon of Richerd Nixon over Watergate; sending a former president to jail ought to be a very serious undertaking, not an attempt to get him for covering up the fact that he had classified documents, which other modern former presidents also had.
If Trump managed to get elected in the middle of at least four court cases, it will be a clear indication of how the American people feel about his indictments, and self-pardoning could very well be justified so that Trump can at least try to get on with governing the country like a majority (or at least a plurality) of Americans will have said they want him to.
There's a lot of uncharted territory here, and it's impossible to predict how everything will play out over the next year and a half.
Smith and the Democrats are now salivating over the possibility that more of Trump's associates will turn on him and provide them more fodder to get a conviction.
Even if such a domino effect happens, Trump could still pardon himself, but he probably won't pardon the ones who turned on him and effectively supported his prosecution.
Taveras is still facing charges that he helped Trump destroy the server, and turning on Trump won't get him out of them.