Palm Beach officials prepare extradition plans ahead of possible Trump indictment: report

But an “obscure clause” in Florida law may give Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump loyalist, the power to intervene

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published May 13, 2021 6:35PM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump departs on the South Lawn of the White House, on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Al Drago/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump departs on the South Lawn of the White House, on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Al Drago/Getty Images)

Law enforcement officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, have discussed contingency plans in the event former President Donald Trump is indicted on criminal charges, according to Politico.

Officers have "actively prepared" for the possibility that Trump is indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, according to the report. Vance has led a years-long probe into Trump and his businesses. Officials have discussed potential "thorny extradition issues" if Vance indicts Trump, who currently lives at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

But the report also noted an "obscure clause" in Florida law regarding interstate extradition that gives Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Republican ally of the former president who is reportedly considering his own 2024 presidential bid, to intervene or investigate "the situation and circumstances of the person" in question "and whether the person ought to be surrendered" to law enforcement in a different state.

"The statute leaves room for interpretation that the governor has the power to order a review and potentially not comply with the extradition notice," Joe Abruzzo, the Palm Beach County Circuit Court clerk who would be involved in any extradition process, told Politico. The report noted that Abruzzo is a former close associate of President Joe Biden's brother Frank but the clerk insisted that "the full extent of the law will be followed and carried out appropriately, without bias."

Trump, however, is planning to stay at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, over the summer, meaning that DeSantis would have no power to intervene if the former president is indicted during that time.

New Jersey has a similar statute as Florida but Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has no love lost for Trump. Murphy called for Trump to be removed from office after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and accused him of "inciting insurrection."

Trump's lawyers could also negotiate a voluntary surrender in the event of an indictment, which could head off any potential law enforcement involvement.

Vance's office has intensified its investigation since a Supreme Court ruling allowed him to subpoena years of Trump's tax returns. Prosecutors in recent weeks have focused on gaining the cooperation of Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, who has worked at the former president's company for decades. Prosecutors recently subpoenaed information related to more than $500,000 in tuition payments for Weisselberg's grandchildren's prep school in Manhattan that were approved by him or by Trump himself, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The subpoena is part of a wide-ranging probe into possible loan, bank or insurance fraud by the Trump Organization. Vance's office has also subpoenaed Trump's lenders, insurance providers and other companies for financial information related to Trump's properties, according to the report. Prosecutors have also subpoenaed Weisselberg's former daughter-in-law for tax records and financial information related to the Trump Organization and have interviewed former Trump attorney and Trump Organization vice president Michael Cohen more than a half-dozen times.

Vance, who is not running for re-election, recently hired Mark Pomerantz, a high-profile outside attorney, to assist with the Trump probe.

 "As a lame duck, he's done certain things, including hiring an outside forensic accounting firm, which is not super unusual but it's not that common," former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump, said in a recent interview with Slate's Dahlia Lithwick. "He's done something else that is less common, which is hire an outside lawyer, Mark Pomerantz, who's a very distinguished, well-respected lawyer in New York. I'm not going to put too much weight on it, but it seems like the kind of move you make when you believe that there's going to be a charge or there's a good likelihood of a charge, because it's a pretty public thing to do."

The investigation is expected to be completed before Vance's term ends, according to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer. Sources told Mayer that the pace of the grand jury probe has "picked up dramatically" this year.

"They mean business now," one source said, adding that prosecutors' questions have become "very pointed — they're sharpshooting now, laser-beaming."

New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading a separate civil investigation into Trump's business practices and Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis has opened a criminal investigation into Trump's pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss in the state. Willis said in a statement earlier this year that prosecutors are also looking at "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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