Former U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has been told by special counsel Jack Smith that he is a target of the federal grand jury investigation into whether he illegally tried to upend his 2020 reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the party's presidential nomination in the 2024 election, claimed in a statement on his campaign letterhead that "HORRIFYING NEWS for our country was given to me by my attorneys" two days ago.
"Deranged Jack Smith, the prosecutor with Joe Biden's [Department of Justice], sent a letter [again, it was a Sunday night!], stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury," Trump said.
The former U.S. leader was referring to the day in 2021 when some 2,000 Trump supporters stormed into the U.S. Capitol and tried to block lawmakers from certifying that Biden had defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
Trump said on his Truth Social platform that Smith gave him "a very short four days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment" is imminent.
In the U.S., people being investigated by grand juries for suspected crimes are often given a chance to testify on their own behalf before charges are levied against them. But criminal suspects seldom do, preferring to make their case at a trial if charges are filed or reach a deal with prosecutors on any charges.
In the statement, Trump assailed Smith's investigation of his actions at the end of his presidency as he tried to stay in office, while also attacking congressional probes in which he was impeached twice by the House of Representatives. He was later acquitted in Senate trials.
As he often has, Trump called Smith's January 6 probe a "witch hunt," and in all caps, said it was "all about election interference and a complete and total political weaponization of law enforcement!"
"It is a very sad and dark period for our Nation!" he concluded.
Trump says he is not guilty of any wrongdoing in the several investigations of his political actions, which include allegations that he illegally retained classified documents when he left office and charges that he falsified financial ledgers at his New York real estate conglomerate to hide a hush money payment to an adult film actress.
Trump's Tuesday statement indicates Smith is moving quickly to complete his probe of the former president's efforts to stay in office.
To this day, Trump falsely contends that he was cheated out of another four-year term in the White House because of voting irregularities, although in the weeks after the November 2020 election, courts dismissed dozens of Trump campaign claims of substantial election fraud.
Judges ruled repeatedly that any irregularities that occurred in a handful of states Trump narrowly lost to Biden were not enough to upend the outcome in those states, let alone substantial enough to overturn the national result.
Trump's announcement of Smith's election probe came on the same day as a U.S. federal judge in Florida is set to begin consideration of when and how to try Trump in a separate case already filed by Smith.
That case, brought in a 37-count indictment against Trump in June, accuses him of illegally keeping classified documents at his oceanside retreat after his White House tenure ended on Jan. 20, 2021.
Judge Aileen Cannon, appointed by Trump near the end of his presidency, is considering a trial date, with Smith's lawyers calling for the trial to start Dec. 11, 2023, and Trump's lawyers wanting the date pushed back to after the November 2024 election.
U.S. political analysts say if the trial is delayed and Trump is elected again, he could simply have his attorney general drop any pending cases against him.
Cannon faces numerous legal issues in the classified documents case, particularly to what extent classified documents are revealed to the public during the trial.
At the Tuesday hearing, Trump's lawyers and prosecutors are expected to discuss deadlines for prosecutors to turn over classified documents that may be used as evidence in the case and ask Trump lawyers what sensitive documents they may seek to disclose in his defense.
A 1980 U.S. law governs how classified material is handled in criminal cases, with judges handed the authority to evaluate secret information before it is publicly revealed in court.
Trump has at various times claimed he was entitled to keep the classified material after he left office and that he had declassified the documents, although no such paper trail of declassification exists. The indictment alleges that sometime last year at his New Jersey golf resort, Trump acknowledged to an aide that he was waving in his hand a classified document that he no longer had the authority to declassify.
Cannon's hearing is occurring a day after the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Trump's petition to block an Atlanta-area district attorney from investigating him over allegations of 2020 election interference in the southern state.
In the Georgia case, prosecutor Fani Willis has signaled she intends to decide by early August whether to charge Trump and several of his aides with trying to upend Trump's narrow loss to Biden in the state.