Trump says he has been told he is a target of the special counsel’s Jan. 6 investigation

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump poses for his official portrait at The White House, in Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

by Jacob Fischler, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

July 18, 2023

Donald Trump has received a target letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith, he said Tuesday, indicating another indictment of the former president is likely over his role in encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump posted to his social media site, Truth Social, on Tuesday, announcing that he’d received the target letter from Smith on Sunday and was given four days to report to a federal grand jury. He cast himself as the victim of a political prosecution and denied wrongdoing.

“This has been a neverending fight since the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower, many years ago,” Trump wrote, referencing his campaign announcement in the 2016 presidential race. “VERY UNFAIR!”

The Justice Department did not respond to a message seeking confirmation of the target letter to Trump, the leading candidate in GOP presidential primary polls for 2024.

A target letter typically precedes an arrest and indictment, Trump said. It would be the third indictment Trump faces — and perhaps the most serious — amid a campaign to retake the White House.

A New York state grand jury alleged in April that Trump falsified business records and used campaign cash to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

In June, a federal grand jury indicted Trump on charges he mishandled classified material when he left office.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing in both cases.

The former president is also ensnared in a criminal investigation in Georgia where a grand jury that convened this week is expected to consider levying charges against those accused of interfering in the 2020 election.

On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a petition from Trump’s attorneys asking the justices to stop Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from pursuing potential  indictments that Willis has indicated will be handed down in August. 

Several ethics and government reform experts, including Norman Eisen, a legal scholar and counsel in Trump’s first impeachment trial, discussed in a July 13 article that the timing of Justice Department indictments coming in the summer could allow federal prosecutors to file the case before the Republican National Convention in July 2024. 

Trump is the early favorite to win the GOP nomination for a third time.

Meanwhile, Smith might also want to get ahead of the Georgia case, which could share some similarities such as focusing on the January 2021 phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking the state election chief to help Trump find enough votes to defeat Biden. 

“Smith may wish to file charges before Willis does, since by doing so he can make his theory of the case public, minimizing the risk of a conflicting Fulton County indictment that could complicate the federal case,” the authors wrote in a July 13 article published on the Just Security online forum run by New York University School of Law.

The Ethics experts also point out that the Justice Department can defer charges that have a five-year statute of limitations, but resolving the case before the 2024 election would give the public the opportunity to weigh whether Trump should return to public office,

“Note that by contrast, the Fulton County case, as a state prosecution, is beyond federal pardon powers; it can likely continue to proceed even if Trump is elected, and so the same time constraints and need to narrow the case do not apply in the same way,”  the report said.. 

Jan. 6 investigation

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith last year to lead the federal investigations of Trump’s potential involvement in the Jan. 6 attack and the classified materials case.

Smith’s Jan. 6 investigation started after the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 Attack on the U.S. Capitol spent two years investigating and presenting a case that Trump was responsible for that day’s insurrection.

The attack was the culmination of a multistep effort by Trump to remain in power after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, the committee found. Trump pressured state officials, the Justice Department and his own running mate, then-Vice President Mike Pence, to illegally subvert the election results, according to the committee.

He summoned a group of supporters to Washington on the day Congress was to certify his reelection loss, encouraged them to storm the Capitol and stood by for hours as the attack proceeded, the committee said.

The House panel, which did not have authority to prosecute criminal charges, ultimately made a referral to the Justice Department. The committee was dissolved after Republicans took over control of the House in January.

The Justice Department has prosecuted hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, including some who face seditious conspiracy charges.

House GOP backs Trump

Despite his legal challenges, Trump retains strong backing among Republicans in Congress, some of whom also describe the prosecutions as politically motivated.

“The Justice Department’s as wrong as it gets,” U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, told reporters at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Rome, Georgia Republican, called the investigation “an embarrassment on the world stage” and said she would stand with Trump “the entire way.”

“If this is the direction America is going in, we are worse than Russia, we are worse than China,” she said. “We are worse than some of the most corrupt third-world countries and this needs to end.”

But former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who is among Trump’s rivals for the 2024 nomination, said in a written statement that Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 should disqualify him from being president and called for him to drop out.

“While Donald Trump would like the American people to believe that he is the victim in this situation, the truth is that the real victims of January 6th were our democracy, our rule of law, and those Capitol Police officers who worked valiantly to protect our Capitol,” he said. “Anyone who truly loves this country and is willing to put the country over themselves would suspend their campaign for President of the United States immediately.”

Trump is expected to be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday afternoon to tape a town hall appearance with Sean Hannity of Fox News.

Senior Washington reporter Jennifer Shutt and Georgia Recorder Senior Reporter Stanley Dunlap contributed to this report.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.