The legal team of former United States President Donald Trump, have been informed he is a target of Federal prosecutors investigation.
Trump is being probed on his handling of classified documents after he left office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The notification to Mr. Trump’s team by prosecutors from the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, was the clearest signal yet that the former president is likely to face charges in the investigation.
It remained unclear when Mr. Trump’s team was told that he was a target of the special counsel’s inquiry, but the notice suggested that prosecutors working for Mr. Smith had largely completed their investigation and were moving toward bringing an indictment.
In court papers last year, prosecutors indicated that they were scrutinizing whether Mr. Trump had broken laws governing the handling of national security documents and whether he had obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.
Department of Justice guidelines state that “the prosecutor, in appropriate cases, is encouraged to notify such person a reasonable time before seeking an indictment in order to afford him or her an opportunity to testify before the grand jury.”
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and argues he is being singled out by enemies. “I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI,” he wrote on social media this week.
Mr. Trump was found to have had more than 300 documents with classified markings at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, including some found in a search there by F.B.I. agents two months after lawyers for the former president said a diligent search had not turned up any more.
Notifying a potential defendant that he or she is a target is a formal way of indicating that the person is a direct focus of a criminal investigation and often precedes the filing of charges.
The notification typically opens the door to defense lawyers requesting a meeting with prosecutors to offer their side of the story.
On Monday, three of Mr. Trump’s lawyers — James Trusty, John Rowley and Lindsey Halligan — met for almost two hours with Mr. Smith and others at the Justice Department in what people close to Mr. Trump described as a final effort to stave off charges and alert top prosecutors to what they believe to be misconduct in Mr. Smith’s investigation.
On Wednesday, witnesses continued to appear in front of a federal grand jury in Miami that was hearing evidence in the documents case — among them Taylor Budowich, one of Mr. Trump’s former spokesmen.
Last month, Trump’s lawyers requested a meeting with Garland amid fears that the coming weeks could bring a possible indictment regarding Trump’s alleged efforts to retain materials after leaving office and obstruct the government’s attempts to retrieve them.
The lawyers said they had questions surrounding the integrity of the grand juries investigating the former president.
Smith, the special counsel, was named by Garland in November after Trump launched his third White House bid.
Smith is also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump is separately charged in New York City with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush money paid made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential race.
He pleaded not guilty in that case.