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Tracking Trump's trials


DONALD TRUMP: This is a persecution.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: He actually just stormed out of the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


It's time for Trump's Trials. And it was a big week in the Trump legal world. And for the former president trying to be the future president, it was a week with mixed results. First, a federal appeals court ruled that Donald Trump does not have blanket immunity and can be criminally prosecuted in the January 6 federal election interference case. Then on Thursday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Colorado ballot case. The justices appeared skeptical of Colorado's argument that Trump should be barred from the presidential primary ballot on the basis that he engaged in an insurrection.

And finally, although it is not one of Trump's cases, it is worth mentioning the release a few hours after those arguments of the special counsel's report on President Biden's own handling of classified documents. The report exonerated Biden but also called into question Biden's memory, opening the door for Trump and his allies to draw inaccurate comparisons to his own case regarding classified documents and also criticize Biden for his age. Remember, in the Trump documents case, he refused to hand over classified documents. Eventually, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home, where they found boxes and boxes of classified documents all over the place and evidence that they were stored at one point in a bathroom, among other places. Trump is facing 40 criminal charges in this case.

So today we are going to focus on that report from the special counsel about Biden and what comparisons between Biden and Trump are fair and which ones aren't. I spoke about it with NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro and former U.S. attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman. I started by asking Domenico how this latest report does and does not affect Trump's classified documents case.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, I mean, No. 1, you know, the - just having this report in the first place, Trump is able to muddy the waters and say this case is a thousand times different and a thousand times worse, even though the opposite is true as far as what was in the 385-page report and as far as the facts go.

DETROW: Because Biden cooperated and Trump didn't.

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, and you also didn't have, you know, reams and reams of boxes, right? I mean, this is a lot different. There were lots more documents in the Trump case that were marked, you know, top secret and classified and all of that. Biden had a couple of papers that were marked top secret. Most of the classified stuff were his own handwritten notes from the time that he was supposed to give back and never did at that time. But he did cooperate, right? And Trump wouldn't. The bottom line here is Trump would not be prosecuted either most likely if he had just given all the stuff back...

DETROW: Right.

MONTANARO: ...And had cooperated.

DETROW: The FBI had to go to Mar-a-Lago to get it.

MONTANARO: Yeah. And they had to have an informant on the inside. I mean, it's a totally different situation as far as, you know, having this material and sharing this material. But as one Democratic strategist who I talked to earlier today, Paul Begala, who a lot of people know who worked for Bill Clinton said that this report clears him legally and kneecaps him politically.

DETROW: Harry, let me put it to you this way. What do you think are fair comparisons between the Biden documents situation and the Trump documents situation and what do you think are unfair comparisons?

HARRY LITMAN: I mean, in a word, the whole report is overwrought, way more detailed than you needed to reach the result. He did a comparison because you want the DOJ to treat like cases like is not illegitimate. What was gratuitous and stinks were these shots at his memory, which masqueraded as maybe this would make it harder to convict because the jury would see him as a doddering old man, you know, in other words, the perfect complement to Trump's political points and the things that give voters the most doubt about Biden. They had no business in that report, and it's very hard to see it that way. That part of it is of a piece with Comey's trashing Clinton and is really wrong as a matter of DOJ policy and even generally.

DETROW: Harry, last question on this to you. Obviously, there are enormous political implications of this report. Did you see anything in this report that came out this week that could affect the actual trial and the actual case against Trump on the documents front? Which, remember, includes 40 criminal charges, and also remember is the case that seems the furthest off from actually going to trial at this point of time due to a range of reasons.

LITMAN: On the substance, the short answer is no, it really is not relevant.

DETROW: Let's end with this, question to both of you. Domenico, we'll start with you. Did anything that happened this week fundamentally change what is happening with the cases or what is happening with the election?

MONTANARO: I mean, I think that this was a confirming situation when it comes to Joe Biden and his memory and his age. I mean, clearly, his age has been the biggest issue. It's not getting any easier for Democrats or for Biden because he's not getting any younger. Every day that goes by is another reminder. And this is the thing with Biden is, like, he's always been gaffe prone. Like, it's not just an age thing. He's never been a great messenger for the Democratic Party. And it makes it very difficult. And when you have this kinds of paragraphs in a prosecutor's report that comes out from the DOJ, it's just fodder for Republicans to be able to sort of dunk on them.

DETROW: So, Harry, whether it was the appeals court ruling, the Supreme Court oral arguments or this special counsel report, what to you fundamentally changed the tracks of things, if anything?

LITMAN: The immunity opinion - huge, much stronger than we might have known - we didn't know what was coming - and will have reverberations down the line. That is the big news of the week in Trumpland.

DETROW: Harry Litman, Domenico Montanaro, thanks to both of you for joining us.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

LITMAN: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.