WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump said he had received a letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith stating that he is a target of a grand jury investigation into efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat.
A letter would represent the clearest sign to date that Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, may face federal criminal charges around his efforts to remain in power after losing the election to Joe Biden.
Officials have testified that during his final months in office, Trump pressured them with false claims of widespread voter fraud. His supporters attacked the US Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021, bid to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win.
Smith “sent a letter (again, it was Sunday night!) stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social media site.
It was one of a series of developments in the various criminal investigations into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his election defeat.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced criminal charges against 16 Trump supporters who allegedly submitted a phony slate of electors in an effort to overturn his 2020 defeat in that state. A prosecutor in Georgia is investigating a similar effort in that state.
At a town hall in Iowa on Tuesday, Trump took personal shots at Smith while claiming that prosecutors were out to help Biden. “This guy is a deranged prosecutor,” Trump said, referring to Smith. “He’s a nasty, horrible human being.”
Smith has already brought criminal charges against Trump in a separate federal case alleging he unlawfully retained national security documents after leaving office in 2021 and conspired to obstruct efforts to retrieve them. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
According to a court filing, Smith sent a target letter to Trump’s lawyers in that case on May 19, roughly three weeks before he filed charges.
Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday asked US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over that case, to consider the timing of his presidential campaign when deciding when the trial should take place.
Cannon appeared skeptical of prosecutors’ request for a December start, but also did not seem inclined to grant Trump’s request for an indefinite delay.
As part of the 2020 election investigation, a grand jury at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., has heard testimony from high-profile former Trump administration officials, including Mike Pence, who served as Trump’s vice president.
In his Truth Social post, Trump said Smith’s office had given him “a very short 4 days” to appear before the grand jury in the probe.
In federal investigations, targets are sometimes provided an opportunity to testify before a grand jury if they have not already done so before prosecutors seek an indictment.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s nearest rival for the Republican nomination, criticized the investigation as politically motivated and said Trump should not be charged. “We’ve gone down the road in this country of trying to criminalize differences in politics,” he said.
Trump is the first former president to be indicted. On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a bid by Trump to block a state investigation into whether he and his allies illegally attempted to meddle with Georgia’s 2020 election.