WASHINGTON — The letter former President Donald Trump received from special counsel Jack Smith informing him that he is a target of the federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election mentions three federal statutes related to the deprivation of rights, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and tampering with a witness.
Those three federal statutes were included in the letter Trump said he received Sunday night, according to two attorneys with direct knowledge of the document. The context surrounding the statutes is unclear, and including them in the letter does not necessarily mean that Trump will be charged with related counts or that an indictment would be limited to only those three statutes.
The details of the letter were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Trump publicly disclosed Tuesday that he received the letter Sunday night and that it gave him four days to decide whether to testify before the grand jury investigating the case. Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed that Trump had received a target letter from Smith, but it was not immediately clear Tuesday 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.
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.
Trump said he believes the letter means he will be indicted for a third time, alleging it is part of an effort by President Joe Biden and his administration to target him because he is “Joe Biden’s NUMBER ONE POLITICAL OPPONENT, who is largely dominating him in the race for the Presidency.”
Multiple people familiar with the matter say Trump has no plans to travel to Washington this week to testify before the special counsel. William Russell, a former White House aide of Trump's who works for his 2024 presidential campaign, will testify to the grand jury investigating the efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Russell has already appeared multiple times before the grand jury.
Trump lashed out at Smith on Tuesday, both on his Truth Social account and at a town hall in Iowa hosted by Fox News' Sean Hannity. He also reached out to his GOP allies on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after he announced he had received the letter.
Trump called House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and urged them to rally support from their rank-and-file members, two people familiar with the calls said. Stefanik, who has publicly endorsed Trump in his re-election campaign, and McCarthy, who has not, defended him Tuesday in on-camera remarks to reporters, claiming the investigation was politically motivated.
"Well, I guess under a Biden administration, Biden America, you’d expect this," McCarthy told reporters. "If you’d noticed, recently, President Trump went up in the polls and was actually surpassing President Biden for re-election. So what do they do now? Weaponize government, go after their No. 1 opponent. It’s time and time again, I think the American public is tired of this. They want to have ... see equal justice, and the idea that they utilize this to go after those who politically disagree with them is wrong."
Stefanik said, "We have yet again another example of Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice targeting his top political opponent, Donald Trump."