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Classified documents probe: Trump lawyers told by DOJ he is the target of investigation

Special counsel Jack Smith is presenting evidence before a Florida grand jury in addition to a panel in Washington, D.C.
Former President Donald Trump onboard his airplane as he is flown to Iowa on March 13, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump aboard his plane to Iowa on March 13.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The latest news in the investigation of Donald Trump's handling of classified documents

  • A federal grand jury in Florida is meeting in special counsel Jack Smith's investigation of former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
  • Trump's lawyers were told in a meeting with Smith that the former president is a target of the investigation, according to two sources briefed on the meeting. Here's what that means.
  • The Florida grand jury is separate from a panel that was convened in Washington, D.C. It has also heard testimony from witnesses but appeared to take a hiatus the last few weeks.
  • Trump's handling of classified documents came under FBI investigation last year when the National Archives alerted it that government documents he had returned after having been out of office for about a year included 184 that were marked as classified. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Coverage on this live blog has ended. Please click here for the latest updates.

118d ago / 1:56 AM UTC

What is a target in an investigation?

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Prosecutors informed Trump’s lawyers Monday that he is a target. What does that mean?

There are three general categories in criminal investigations: a witness (someone with relevant information), a subject (someone whose conduct is within the realm of the grand jury’s work) and a target (someone prosecutors believe committed a crime).

Prosecutors don’t subpoena targets. Instead, sometimes they send a letter inviting the target to come in and testify if he or she wishes (recall that something similar happened near the end of the Manhattan hush money investigation before Trump was indicted). But sometimes it is done verbally. It’s all a matter of discretion. 

Justice Department regulations say: “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.”

Recipients of target letters are often, but not always, indicted.

118d ago / 1:55 AM UTC

Trump lawyers were told he is a target in special counsel probe

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Trump’s attorneys were told at Monday’s meeting in Washington, D.C., with prosecutors at the Justice Department that Trump is a target of the classified documents investigation, according to two sources briefed on the meeting.

That does not rule out the possibility that his legal team understood or was told he was a target before the meeting. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

118d ago / 10:48 PM UTC

Ex-Trump lawyer previews possible defense strategy

Former Trump lawyer Timothy Parlatore told CBS News that the former president's team has a defense plan should an indictment come down that includes alleging prosecutors committed misconduct in their investigation.

Parlatore said that the defense team's plan might have evolved since he left two weeks ago but that lawyers planned to file motions to dismiss any criminal charges because of alleged misconduct.

"Prosecutorial misconduct is a big issue that’s infecting this case," Parlatore said.

Parlatore has complained about prosecutors' conduct before. In March, he told NBC News that prosecutors had committed misconduct when they questioned him when he appeared before the grand jury to testify about his efforts to make sure Trump had no more government documents.

He said then that prosecutors had tried to bar him from discussing his attempts to include the FBI in the search and that they had improperly pressed him for information about his conversations with Trump. He said he'd refused to do so on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. Parlatore said the prosecutor asked him in front of the panel why Trump wasn't waiving that privilege, which he said was “completely improper.” 

The special counsel's office has declined to comment on the allegation.

118d ago / 10:00 PM UTC

Trump ally Bannon subpoenaed in special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 grand jury probe

Elsewhere in Smith's investigation ...

Former Trump White House official Steve Bannon has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., in connection with Smith’s investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s efforts to stay in office, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The subpoena, for documents and testimony, was sent out in late May, the sources said. The grand jury investigating Trump’s actions surrounding Jan. 6 and in connection with efforts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power is separate from the grand jury in Miami, which heard testimony Wednesday about Trump’s handling of classified documents.

Read the full story here.

118d ago / 8:47 PM UTC

What did Budowich say publicly about classified documents?

Taylor Budowich has been quoted frequently on the classified documents. Here are some examples:

  • "Just like every Democrat-fabricated witch hunt previously, the water of this unprecedented and unnecessary raid is being carried by a media willing to run with suggestive leaks, anonymous sources and no hard facts," Budowich told The New York Times.
  • He criticized The Washington Post's coverage. He told The Independent that the Post “continues to serve as the propaganda arm of the Biden administration." He added, “Instead of operating openly and honestly, they collude in never-ending leaks and lies at the expense of the integrity of the FBI and DOJ [Department of Justice].”
118d ago / 8:23 PM UTC

Pence doesn't say whether an indictment should disqualify Trump from race for the White House

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who launched his bid for the White House today, did not say whether an indictment of Trump should disqualify him from the 2024 presidential campaign.

Asked by NBC News' Jonathan Allen at a campaign event whether "President Trump should end his campaign if he's indicted in federal court," Pence smiled and then appeared to walk toward a crowd of his supporters.

119d ago / 7:47 PM UTC

Trump sidesteps whether he's been told he's a target of probe

While one of the former president's allies reported Wednesday that Trump has been told he's a target of federal prosecutors, he sidestepped the issue in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social.

"No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI," Trump wrote.

He also called on the GOP to come to his defense, writing in all caps, "Republicans in Congress must make this their #1 issue!!!"

119d ago / 7:29 PM UTC

Trump posts about 2022 report that he says supports his contention he had broad authority to declassify

Trump posted a quote on his social media website from a 2022 report from the American Bar Association that "seemed to agree with Trump’s assertion that 'guidelines support his contention that presidents have broad authority to formally declassify.'"

He appeared to be quoting from an article written by ally John Solomon on Wednesday that claimed that federal prosecutors informed Trump that he's a criminal target and will most likely be indicted imminently.

A fact-check from the ABA last year said legal guidelines support Trump's contention that presidents have broad authority to declassify most documents," but it says "while they are in office."

NBC News reported last year that legal and presidential records experts are skeptical of Trump's claim that any sensitive documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago had been declassified.

119d ago / 6:54 PM UTC

Trump tells N.Y. Times he hasn't been told he's getting indicted

Trump told The New York Times he hasn't been told that he's getting indicted, reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted.

This came in response, Haberman noted, to a report by one of Trump's allies that claimed he was sent a target letter.

Haberman added in a follow-up tweet that when she asked Trump whether he had been told he's a target, he "demurred, saying he doesn’t talk directly to prosecutors."

119d ago / 6:34 PM UTC

Trump blasts FBI and DOJ as 'fascists'

Shortly after his former campaign spokesman testified before a federal grand jury in Miami, Trump blasted the Justice Department, the FBI and others investigating him as "fascists" on his social media website.

"Wow, this is turning out to be the greatest & most vicious instance of ELECTION INTERFERENCE in the history of our Country," Trump wrote on Truth Social, suggesting he shouldn't be investigated by anyone because he's running for president and doing well in the polls.

He said "they are launching all of the many Fake Investigations against me RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF MY CAMPAIGN, something which is unheard of & not supposed to happen," he wrote of the multiple investigations, all of which began before he announced his campaign. "DOJ, FBI, NEW YORK A.G., NEW YORK D.A., ATLANTA D.A. FASCISTS ALL!" he concluded.

119d ago / 5:54 PM UTC

Chris Christie says he will 'wait to react' to potential Trump indictment

Republican presidential contender Chris Christie will "wait to react" to a potential second Trump indictment, the former New Jersey governor told NBC News.

"Having done that for seven years, I know you never know when someone’s getting indicted, and the only person who probably knows in this instance is the special counsel," Christie said, referring to his time as a federal prosecutor. "So I’ll wait to react to seeing whatever he does."

He added that he does not know how the potential federal indictment could compare to Trump's indictment in New York.

"I think indictments have to be read, and the evidence has to be evaluated before you can give an opinion," he said.

119d ago / 4:29 PM UTC

Budowich questioned about statement he made on Trump's behalf, source says

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A source familiar with today’s grand jury proceedings in Miami says Taylor Budowich testified for about an hour in Smith’s inquiry into Trump’s retention of classified documents. 

Budowich answered questions, the source said, about a past public statement on behalf of Trump representing that the former president had not retained classified records. He was questioned about how he formed the basis for that understanding. 

At least one email communication was also of interest to investigators, the source said.  

According to the source, today’s proceeding was focused exclusively on the issue of classified documents — not on the other part of Smith’s investigation of Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

119d ago / 3:50 PM UTC

Taylor Budowich criticizes grand jury appearance as a 'bogus and deeply troubling effort'

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Confirming his appearance before the federal grand jury, Budowich slammed the investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents as a “bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to ‘get’” the former president.

“I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly,” the onetime Trump spokesman tweeted.

“America has become a sick and broken nation — a decline led by Joe Biden and power hungry Democrats,” he added. “I will not be intimidated by this weaponization of government. For me, the need to unite our nation and make America great again has never been more clear than it is today.”

Budowich said he will “not be deterred from pursuing” Trump’s re-election.

119d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

Trump TV ad criticizes special counsel Smith

A new ad released today by the Trump campaign previews the former president’s political response to any possible additional criminal indictments, painting prosecutors, including special counsel Jack Smith, as “wolves” working to distract the country from President Joe Biden's problems. 

The new ad, which will air on national cable but has not yet been placed, according to the Trump campaign, opens with a question that echoes Trump’s social media posts: “Just how far are the radical left and the Beltway bandits willing to go to stop him?”  

Trump has long cast the various criminal investigations into his conduct both as president and as a private citizen as “election interference” — an effort to use to the courts to defeat him when his political foes could not. The ad puts at least some of Trump’s campaign war chest behind that argument. 

 “Let’s impeach him. Let’s get tainted, radical left prosecutors to charge him,” a narrator says as images of former FBI Director James Comey, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, Smith and former special counsel Robert Mueller appear on the screen. “Let’s conspire with Hillary and the FBI, with fake stories about him — all to distract from Biden’s incompetence, weakness and money-grabbing corruption.”

The ad shows a gnarling wolf spliced in with other images, including video of Biden falling onstage at an event last week.

Following his indictment in New York in April, Trump effectively rallied Republicans to his defense with a similar rhetorical argument — forcing Republicans to take sides between a “radical left” DA or the party’s front-runner. Every major GOP presidential candidate except for Asa Hutchison embraced Trump’s argument at the time. His campaign touted a fundraising bump of more than $12 million in the immediate aftermath of his indictment. 

119d ago / 2:27 PM UTC

What was Taylor Budowich doing for Trump

Budowich served in an all-encompassing role for the former president, traveling with him and serving as his spokesman before Trump formally launched his 2024 bid for president. At that point, Budowich officially announced that he’d be at the helm of the Trump-aligned super PAC MAGA Inc., which at the time had a budget of more than $100 million. 

119d ago / 1:31 PM UTC

Taylor Budowich gave public statements about Trump's handling of documents

As a spokesman for the former president and his PAC, Budowich also provided public statements to news outlets in response to questions about the special counsel’s investigation of the documents, potentially making him an important witness.

In at least one example, The Washington Post quoted him in an article Oct. 12 declining to offer detailed responses to questions but providing a statement. Prosecutors are likely to question him today about how he received information about Trump’s retention of classified documents and anything he knows about the movement of boxes.

119d ago / 1:16 PM UTC

D.C. chief U.S. district judge says court is 'all geared up'

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jeb Boasberg just told the reporters at the Washington federal courthouse: “Everyone is all geared up this week, but I’m not sure this is the week to be all geared up. We’ll see.”

Boasberg has been responsible for ruling on recent disputes that have arisen out of the grand jury in Washington.

119d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

Taylor Budowich, former Trump spokesman, appears at Florida courthouse

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Taylor Budowich, a former spokesman for Trump who also worked for the former president's super PAC, appeared at the Wilkes D. Ferguson Jr Courthouse in Miami.

Budowich was spotted with his attorney walking into the courthouse.

119d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

Dozens of Secret Service agents have been subpoenaed or appeared before grand jury in Trump docs probe

About two dozen Secret Service agents have been subpoenaed or have appeared before a federal grand jury in Washington that’s looking into former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, two sources familiar with the matter confirmed Tuesday.

The sources said prosecutors have interviewed agents assigned to Trump’s security detail at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, about 24 of whom have been asked to testify before the grand jury. All complied, the sources said.

The testimony occurred in the “past few months,” meaning not recently, since the grand jury has been on hiatus, the sources said.

Read the full story here.