Former President Trump said Tuesday morning that he has been alerted he is a target of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation focusing on his illegal efforts to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.
Trump said, “Deranged Jack Smith, the prosecutor with Joe Biden’s DOJ, sent a letter (again it was Sunday night!) stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation, and giving me a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an arrest and indictment.”
It had been clear that Trump’s actions would be a central focus of the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, as Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to review the matter last year to determine “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power.”
During a fiery speech immediately before the mob stormed the Capitol Building, interrupting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, Trump incited his supporters to march on Congress during a protest rally in Washington.
As Trump said, receiving a target letter is often a sign someone will soon face charges.
Trump pursued a multi-pronged scheme to remain in office, turning to the DOJ, state officials, and even his own supporters, who ransacked the Capitol after then-Vice President Mike Pence refused Trump’s request to overturn the election results.
It’s unclear what specific charges Trump could face if prosecutors decide to move ahead.
A model prosecution memo analyzing publicly available details about the DOJ investigation suggested the former president could face charges on conspiracy to defraud the United States after creating fake electoral certificates that were submitted to Congress.
“Trump knew he lost the election but did not want to give up power, so he worked with his lawyers and others on a wide variety of schemes to change the outcome,” a group of former prosecutors and legal experts wrote in the memo published on Just Security.
“Those schemes included creating fraudulent electoral certificates that were submitted to Congress, implicating statutes such as 18 U.S.C. § 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States in the administration of elections.”
Creating those fake electoral certificates could also implicate statutes that prohibit obstruction of an official proceeding, one of the charges also leveled at numerous rioters who entered the building, including members of the Oath Keepers and military and chauvinist group the Proud Boys.
Some members of those groups have also been tried and convicted of seditious conspiracy, something the attorneys say “laid the groundwork for closely related insurrection charges against Trump.”
The attorneys who drafted the memo also said that Trump could be charged under a statute that prohibits inciting an insurrection and giving aid or comfort to insurrectionists. They write, however, that such charges would be weighed with “extreme caution” since they are rarely brought by prosecutors.
“We believe there is sufficient evidence to pursue it—as did the Select Committee in making a criminal referral of Trump under that statute—but prosecutors may make different choices,” the memo states.
Smith has already brought one federal indictment against Trump, filing Espionage Act and other charges related to Trump’s storing of classified records at Mar-a-Lago.
The prosecution memo argues that the indictment offered clues about how Smith might pursue charges against the numerous allies involved in the effort to stay in power.
“The classified documents indictment offers insight into Smith’s possible thinking here. Those charges include only one co-conspirator, a measured approach suggesting that the list of defendants in this case likewise might be a short one,” they write.
Prosecutors in recent weeks have called a number of Trump allies before the grand jury, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former aide Hope Hicks.
Prosecutors reportedly asked questions about whether Trump knew he had lost the election, as demonstrating intent is key for some charges.
An indictment would mark the third time this year Trump has been charged with a crime, and the second time in a matter of months that he would face federal charges. He was charged in Manhattan in April over an alleged hush money scheme to keep quiet an affair, and in June he pleaded not guilty to federal charges over his handling of classified documents upon leaving office.
The former president is still under investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. The district attorney leading the investigation has signaled charges could be filed in August.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the myriad investigations into his conduct are part of an attempt to undermine his 2024 White House bid, pointing to his sizable lead in Republican primary polls, as well as some surveys that have shown him narrowly leading President Biden in a hypothetical rematch.
“THIS WITCH HUNT IS ALL ABOUT ELECTION INTERFERENCE AND A COMPLETE AND TOTAL POLITICAL WEAPONIZATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT!” said Trump in a statement. “It is a very sad and dark period for our Nation!”
In the case over his handling of classified materials, a May 19 letter from the DOJ notified Trump he was a target of the investigation, according to court filings.
Trump posted on social media on June 8 that he had been indicted.
In this case, however, it appears Trump has been given until Thursday to appear before the grand jury in Washington.
Although the special counsel’s report failed to categorically state that Trump obstructed justice owing to a policy that prohibits the indictment of a sitting president, Robert Mueller’s team did describe 10 “discrete acts” in which he had done so.
The report says these 10 instances can be divided into “two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the president’s motives.”
The first phase took place before Trump fired his first FBI director, James Comey, after he had been reassured he was not personally under investigation.
Following Comey’s dismissal and Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, the report indicated that once Trump knew he was under investigation for obstructing justice, he switched gears.
“At that point, the president engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts both in public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation,” the report states.