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Trump Confirms He's a Target of Special Prosecutor Jack Smith's Investigation into January 6
Trump almost certainly will face a multi-count criminal indictment for his alleged role in the Capitol protest on January 6, 2021
Donald Trump announced today on Truth Social that the special counsel’s office notified the former president that he is a “target” of Jack Smith’s criminal investigation into the events of January 6:
Trump, his associates, and his supporters have been under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice for more than two years for January 6. At least 1,000 individuals have been arrested and charged, mostly on misdemeanor and nonviolent felonies, for their participation in the four-hour disturbance on January 6. New arrests are announced each week as D.C. U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, a Biden appointee, promises to double the existing caseload before the statute of limitation expires for many offenses.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith, a longtime DOJ official, as special counsel in November 2022 to take over the department’s dual investigations Trump’s handling of classified material and “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 indicted Trump last month on 37 counts including alleged “willful retention of national defense information” as well as obstruction and perjury. Walt Nauta, a Trump aide, also was indicted as a co-conspirator.
But Smith’s pending indictment against Trump poses the greatest legal jeopardy for the former president and leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate. Dozens of people, including former Vice President Michael Pence, have been hauled before the DC-based grand jury to testify about Trump’s actions before and on January 6.
Smith is likely to seek an obstruction of an official proceeding charge against Trump; more than 300 January 6 defendants face that felony count, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Some D.C. District Court judges have ordered pretrial detention for numerous individuals charged with 1512(c)(2), a statute passed in the post-Enron era to address tampering with evidence in a criminal proceeding.
Smith also could pursue seditious conspiracy charges against Trump. As I explained here in April, the outcome of the trial would impact Smith’s ongoing investigation:
Of the hundreds of video clips used as evidence in the marathon trial of five members of the Proud Boys, prosecutors began closing arguments not with a clip of the defendants engaged in criminal activity but with a clip of Donald Trump.
The government showed the jury a portion of the September 2020 presidential debate; goaded by Joe Biden and then-Fox News host Chris Wallace to condemn “white supremacists and militia groups” in an effort to downplay Black Lives Matter and Antifa violence, Trump asked them to “give me a name.” Biden quickly answered, “the Proud Boys.”
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said in response.
Prosecutors have used the clip at other points during the nearly four-month trial—a not-so-subtle reminder to jurors from a city that voted 93 percent for Joe Biden that the men on trial supported Trump. But the Justice Department may have a more sinister reason to tie the Proud Boys to the former president. Any convictions in this trial would give Special Counsel Jack Smith, an independent prosecutor in name only, justification to pursue similar charges against Trump as a coconspirator of sorts.
A D.C. jury convicted four members of the Proud Boys, including its leader, of seditious conspiracy in May. Members of the Oath Keepers, another so-called “militia group” involved in January 6 loosely tied to Trump associates including Roger Stone, also have been convicted or pleaded guilty to the rare Civil War-era crime tantamount to treason.
Even worse news for Trump is all proceedings related to a January 6 indictment will continue to take place in Washington, D.C., where DOJ has a near-perfect conviction rate in January 6 cases. Further, there is precedent for denying release to defendants charged with obstruction and seditious conspiracy. No one should doubt that this unhinged, unaccountable DOJ will seek and receive pretrial detention for Trump and his co-conspirators.
Smith could announce an indictment as early as next month.