The New York Post reported, breathlessly, over the weekend that Jay Bratt, a top aide to Special Counsel Jack Smith, had met at the White House on March 31, 2023, with Caroline Saba, deputy chief of staff for the White House counsel’s office.
The meeting preceded former President Donald Trump’s indictment by Smith’s office by nine weeks, and the Post states that the meeting raises “serious concerns about coordinated legal efforts aimed at President Biden’s likely opponent in 2024.”
Bratt and Saba had also met in 2021, although that was long before Smith had been appointed as special counsel. The story is based on White House visitor logs; it does not include what was discussed in the meeting.
The story, though, falls far short of establishing that the meeting was about the White House and Special Counsel’s office conspiring with one another to plan Trump’s indictment.
That’s the impression shared by the two, not exactly disinterested observers quoted in the Post story- Trump’s attorney-turned-codefendant Rudy Giuliani, and law professor Jonathan Turley, a frequent source in the press for over-the-top pro-Trump legal commentary. And Donald Trump himself weighed in on Truth Social over the weekend.
“It has just been reported that aides to TRUMP prosecutor, Deranged Jack Smith, met with high officials at the White House just prior to these political SleazeBags Indicating me OVER NOTHING,” Trump said on his social network, which he is continuing to use despite his brief return to the former Twitter last week.
“If this is so, which it is, that means that Biden and his Fascist Thugs knew and APPROVED of this country-dividing Form of Election Interference, despite their insisting that they ‘knew nothing’ It’s all a BIG LIE, just like Russia, Russia, Russia, & not knowing about son’s business dealings. DISMISS CASE!’”
However, there may have been perfectly legitimate reasons for such a meeting to take place, that does not entail a conspiracy among Trump’s enemies. And besides, if the Biden White House wanted to hold a meeting to lay out their anti-Trump conspiracy, they probably wouldn’t do it openly in the White House.
The Post quotes Peter Carr, a spokesman from the special counsel’s office, who stated that the meeting was a “case-related interview,” while “a person with knowledge of the 2023 visit” told the newspaper that the meeting in March 2023 was with “an interview of a career official who was also working at the White House during the Trump Administration.”
As pointed out on X (formerly Twitter) by journalist Josh Marshall, Bratt has another job, which is head of the national security section at the Department of Justice, “so the fact that he met with someone at the White House counsels office a couple months before Trump was indicted tells us basically nothing.”
Bratt was profiled by Axios last October. He is described as “ a prosecutor who has built his career going after convicted spies, Blackwater guards, Chinese companies, and some of Trump’s close associates.”
The Axios piece adds that “lawyers who have worked with Bratt over the course of his decades-long career emphasize his rare combination of litigation and leadership expertise at the intersection of national security, espionage, technology, sanctions, foreign governments, free speech, and politics.”
Bratt, even before he joined Jack Smith’s office, was involved with the Trump documents case, at the time that a special master was reviewing the evidence.
“Under remarkable pressures, they have played it straight up the middle,” David Laufman, Bratt’s former boss, told Axios for the 2022 story. “And every time they’ve been before a truly independent and neutral judicial arbiter they have prevailed.”