(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is in direct communication with Justice Department officials, the first sign of talks between the two sides as the Jan. 6, 2021 criminal investigation accelerates, sources familiar with the matter told CNN. with the matter.
The talk revolves around whether Trump could shield conversations he had while president from federal investigators.
In recent weeks, investigators have moved aggressively into Trump’s orbit, subpoenaing top former White House officials, targeting efforts to overturn the 2020 election and running searches for the lawyers who tried to aid those efforts.
The Trump team’s conversations occur with the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, which is in charge of the investigation, and its top prosecutor from Jan. 6, Thomas Windom, the sources said. The conversations have not been previously reported.
At this stage, the talks are primarily focused on whether communications Trump’s West Wing witnesses had with the former president can be concealed from a federal criminal grand jury under Trump’s claims of executive privilege, the people said.
The Justice Department has been anticipating a court fight with Trump over executive privilege. The issue arose when grand jury subpoenas were issued to two former officials from the White House counsel’s office and former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief counsel and chief of staff.
Trump’s legal defense team has warned him that indictments are possible, sources told CNN.
Some members of Trump’s legal team have discussed his possible defense strategies on at least two occasions in recent months, according to two sources familiar with the matter, as they brace for new developments in the Justice Department investigation and a separate investigation by from Georgia officials about his potentially criminal meddling in the 2020 state election results. rolling stone previously reported that Trump had been briefed.
Trump has questioned his lawyers about whether they really believe he will face formal charges, the sources said. However, the former president has expressed a large dose of skepticism that he will be charged, one of the sources familiar with the matter said.
Another source close to the former president told CNN that Trump has also raised questions about a possible indictment with members of his inner circle, some of whom believe the president is concerned about the possibility of facing federal charges.
But a person close to Trump said he is noticeably busier when chatting with friends and advisers about the 2022 midterm elections and his potential 2024 presidential campaign than he is during briefings on legal strategy.
This person described the former president as dismissive in conversations about his legal troubles, often repeating his “witch hunt” mantra while claiming that the various investigations he faces are clearly driven by political opponents.
A Trump spokesperson said in a statement to CNN: “There is clearly a concerted effort to undermine vital and constitutionally entrenched attorney-client and executive privileges through partisan political persecution.”
“How can a future president have private conversations with his lawyers, advisers and other senior advisers if said adviser is forced, either during or after the presidency, in front of a Selection Committee or other entity, and is forced to reveal those privileged and confidential discussions?” the spokesman said. “President Trump will not be deterred by witch hunts or kangaroo courts from continuing to defend and fight for America, our Constitution and the Truth.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Mark Meadows could be a key witness
In recent months, the former president has ignored advice from some of his advisers to avoid talking to current and former advisers who have become entangled in the House select committee investigation into Jan. of the criminal investigation, people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Trump has been specifically advised to cut off contact with his former White House Secretary General Mark Meadows, whose actions leading up to and on the day of the US Capitol insurrection have been deeply scrutinized by the House panel. Representatives, the people said.
Two of Meadows’ former senior advisers, Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farah Griffin, have also been highly critical of Trump, with Hutchinson testifying about the damaging details of Trump’s actions on January 6 before the House panel in June. Hutchinson is also cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation.
Some of Trump’s attorneys believe Meadows could also be in the crosshairs of investigators and worry he could become a fact witness if he is pressed to cooperate with the Justice Department investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter. affair.
In response, Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, told CNN Thursday: “This is all pointless and uninformed speculation, apparently from people who know little but talk a lot.”
Former White House counsel Ty Cobb said Meadows is “perfectly positioned to be the John Dean of this mess,” referring to the former Richard Nixon aide who provided crucial public testimony during the Watergate hearings.
“The reason why [Meadows] he’s valuable is also why he’s in jeopardy: He was basically to the right of Trump during all of these exercises and was involved in key meetings and phone calls,” Cobb said.
However, according to a source familiar with the relationship, Trump and Meadows have spoken several times. Another source close to Trump described their relationship as “not the same as before” while they served in the White House, but insisted they still had a relationship, even as Trump complained about Meadows in his recent conversations with other allies. .
Meadows is known to attend events and fundraisers at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., where he also helped organize a donor retreat last April for the Conservative Partnership Institute, a group he runs. with former Republican Senator Jim DeMint.
Winning Trump’s endorsement of US Senate candidate Ted Budd “was the last time Meadows was around regularly. Since then, he hasn’t been a major part of the political operation or the thought process.” [de Trump]said a second person close to Trump.
CNN’s Pamela Brown and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.