On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump indicated that he is a target of Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack and other efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Using derisive language typical of Trump, the 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner suggested, without proof, that the pending charges against him were politically motivated.
“Deranged Jack Smith … sent a letter stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation,” Trump said in his missive, which was shared on Truth Social, claiming he was told to appear before the grand jury within “a very short 4 days,” and further stating that such an order “almost always means an Arrest and indictment.”
Such requests are typically given at the end of an investigatory phase of a DOJ inquiry, though individuals that are sent target letters are not compelled or forced to appear — rather, it’s a voluntary decision by those receiving such letters. According to reporting from Politico, targets receiving such letters rarely actually speak to grand juries after being given the opportunity to do so.
Trump in his post described Merrick Garland as “Joe Biden’s Attorney General” and calling the DOJ “Biden’s Department of Injustice.”
“THIS WITCH HUNT IS ALL ABOUT ELECTION INTERFERENCE AND A COMPLETE AND TOTAL POLITICAL WEAPONIZATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT!” Trump concluded in his statement.
Government sources speaking to ABC News have confirmed that Trump is indeed a target in the investigation.
Trump’s claims of impropriety by DOJ officials are not likely to be used (much less entertained) during a trial if charges are indeed made against him. Rather, it’s more likely that Trump is trying to win over public opinion by suggesting he’s being unfairly targeted by investigators, hoping that, if he can get enough voters to believe him, he can delay the trial until after the 2024 election, which, if he wins, he can appoint new officials to the Justice Department who would likely drop the charges against him.
But the evidence against Trump — at least what has been made available to the public — is damning, and will likely play a role in the debate over his candidacy during the campaign. Some watchdog groups, too, are indicating they plan to challenge his qualifications for candidacy, and any potential charges from the DOJ will likely bolster arguments for disqualifying Trump from running next year.
Charges against Trump could relate to his efforts to obstruct the process of confirming the Electoral College, which the former president tried to pressure Mike Pence, his vice president at the time, to reject. Trump could also be charged over his insistence to illegally obtain voting machines from states he lost. He could also face charges relating to his attempt to create a slate of “fake” electors from those states in order to disrupt the congressional proceedings.
Smith could also decide to charge Trump with possibly inciting a mob of his loyalists to attack the U.S. Capitol during the certification process, citing the incendiary rhetoric he used the morning of the attack as well as appeals to his supporters in the weeks leading up to it by promising a “wild” time, among other statements.
Importantly, not all of the evidence against Trump has been made public, meaning that Smith and his team of investigators may have additional information about these efforts, and potentially other attempts, to usurp the 2020 presidential election results.
“Prediction: Jack Smith evidence, or what we see of it in his indictment, will be much stronger than people are anticipating,” wrote Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney and current law professor at the University of Alabama.
It is also possible that former Trump officials and confidantes have provided additional information to the DOJ without him yet knowing. As many observers have pointed out, Trump’s former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — himself a key member of the Trump campaign team that helped to coordinate the fake electors plot — spoke voluntarily to Smith’s team. Although what he said to investigators wasn’t made public, Giuliani was viewed by many as likely to be charged by the DOJ, but his lawyer has indicated that he, unlike Trump, hasn’t received a target letter.
“Sounds like Rudy flipped to some degree,” tweeted national security lawyer Bradley P. Moss.
If indictments come about in the near future, it would become the third indictment faced by the former president in the past year, and the second federal indictment — both coming from Smith’s special counsel’s office — overall. Smith previously indicted Trump with 37 charges over improper possession of classified documents and thousands of other government materials. Trump was also charged with 34 felony counts by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office over his hush-money payments to adult film stars, and his attempts to keep those affairs silent, allegedly using illegal tactics, in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Trump could also soon face charges coming from the state of Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is wrapping up her grand jury investigation of the former president, who sought to have state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) “find” him enough votes to overcome Biden’s totals in the 2020 race.
Trump’s lawyers recently appealed to the state Supreme Court, seeking to get the investigation tossed out, but the state’s highest court unanimously dismissed that motion this week, rejecting claims that his status then as a president and his current status as a candidate for president should allow him to elude charges.
Willis has taken steps in her inquiry that indicate charges toward Trump could come as soon as next month, although she could wait until federal charges from Smith’s inquiry into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election are made first.
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