Trump lashes out after target letter from special counsel leading Jan. 6 probe

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has been notified that he is the target of an investigation by a Washington-based grand jury examining the Jan. 6 riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“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,” Trump posted on his Truth Social account.

Trump said that effectively means he will be indicted for a third time. He added that he is “Joe Biden’s NUMBER ONE POLITICAL OPPONENT, who is largely dominating him in the race for the Presidency.”

It was not immediately clear what the charges would be or whether anyone else received a target letter. People who have been informed that they are targets of criminal probes are often, but not always, indicted.

Trump said his lawyers gave him the letter, which he called “HORRIFYING NEWS for our Country,” on Sunday night while he was with his family after having attended a Turning Point event in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before, or even close,” Trump wrote in his lengthy statement.

A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed that Trump had received a target letter from Smith.

The Justice Department defines a “target” as “a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” The purpose of notifying a target of the status is “to afford him or her an opportunity to testify before the grand jury,” according to the Justice Department.

Despite Trump’s attempt to stir up outrage on social media, Fox News host Sean Hannity opened an interview with the former president later Tuesday by observing that the latest development “doesn’t seem to bother” him.

“It bothers me,” Trump replied at the town hall-style forum, recorded in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and broadcast during Hannity’s prime-time program. “It bothers me for everybody in this incredible sold-out audience.”

Trump allies blasted the news and maintained Smith’s probe and others are politically motivated.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blasted the news as an example of “weaponized government,” while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called it “absolute bull—-.”

A pair of Trump’s Republican presidential rivals criticized his behavior on Jan. 6 but said they did not think he should be charged.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that Trump that should have “come out more forcefully” to stop the violence during the Capitol riot but that “to try to criminalize that, that’s a different issue entirely.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump pressured to halt Congress’ counting of Electoral College votes and then complained on social media while rioters were storming the Capitol, said in an interview Tuesday with NewsNation that his former running mate’s words on Jan. 6 were “reckless,” adding, “I had no right to overturn the election.”

“President Trump was wrong then. He’s wrong now. And I believe that history, history will hold him to account for his actions that day, but with regard to the prospect of an indictment, I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Pence continued. “I’m not convinced that the president acting on the bad advice of a group of crank lawyers that came into the White House in the days before January 6th is actually criminal.”

The White House declined comment on the target letter.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel in November to determine “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021.” Smith was also assigned oversight of “the ongoing investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records” taken from Trump’s White House, “as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation.”

He has led a sprawling investigation in the almost eight months since.

Smith secured an indictment before a federal grand jury in Florida last month, charging Trump with 37 counts in connection with his handling of classified documents and alleged efforts to obstruct that investigation.

The charges in that case include making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice and willful retention of national defense information, related to the more than 100 classified documents that were recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last year, according to the indictment. Trump pleaded not guilty and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Court records in that case show Trump was sent a target letter on May 19, about three weeks before he was indicted. His co-defendant, Walt Nauta, was sent a target letter on May 24.

Lawyers for Smith, Trump and Nauta, who has also pleaded not guilty, appeared at a hearing in the documents case Tuesday afternoon in Fort Pierce, Florida, where they tangled over a possible trial date. The judge is expected to rule later.

Also Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that she has filed charges against 16 so-called fake electors — people who signed paperwork falsely claiming Trump had won the 2020 election as part of a scheme to overturn the results.

Trump, meanwhile, was scheduled to participate in a town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with Fox News’ Sean Hannity at 9 p.m. ET.

A possible indictment charging Trump in the election probe comes after a House select committee, created by Democrats when they held the majority control of the House last year, investigated his role in the riot.

Days after the attack, the House impeached Trump — for the second time — for “incitement of insurrection.” The Senate acquitted him because Democrats fell 10 votes short of securing enough Republican votes to join them.

In addition to the documents case, Trump was separately charged in early April in New York City by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. He pleaded not guilty.

Trump also faces a criminal investigation related to the 2020 election in Georgia.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated that she would most likely seek indictments during the first half of August. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the investigation by Willis, a Democrat, is politically motivated.

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