If the Department of Justice is targeting Trump, it could mean that federal charges could be announced before indictments in Fulton County.
“Deranged Jack Smith, the prosecutor with Joe Biden’s DOJ, sent a letter (again, it was Sunday night!) stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation, and giving me a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and indictment,” Trump wrote Tuesday.
Credit: Courtesy of Truth Social
Credit: Courtesy of Truth Social
The Department of Justice has been investigating the events that led to the Jan. 6 attack, as well as Trump’s possession of classified documents after he left the White House. The former president has already been indicted in the documents case on 37 counts he mishandled sensitive records and then obstructed authorities seeking to recover them.
DOJ has already charged hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol, including 24 from Georgia. But there have been indications in recent weeks that the federal investigation has been moving closer to Trump and his inner circle.
There is likely some overlap between Willis and Smith’s investigations. Both are interested in the appointment of a slate of “alternate” Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and both have interviewed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was pressed by Trump to “find” nearly 12,000 votes during an infamous recorded phone call on Jan. 2, 2021.
Federal prosecutors visited Atlanta last month to interview Raffensperger. They also spoke to Chris Harvey, who served as Georgia’s elections director in the secretary of state’s office during the 2020 elections. Harvey on Tuesday declined to discuss what prosecutors asked him about.
The federal indictment is expected to be much broader than any potential Fulton indictments and could include efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into overturning the presidential election results as well as the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to New York attorney Nick Akerman, who has been closely following the ongoing investigations.
As a local prosecutor, Willis is not required to step aside for the Justice Department probe, though it’s possible she could coordinate with Smith. There are no indications from either side that such coordination has occurred.
The target letter “is really significant because it means that he is definitely going to be indicted,” said Akerman, who was a member of the special prosecution team that investigated the Watergate scandal. “Whether it’s in four days, I don’t know about that, but I mean it certainly it looks like within 10 days there’s going to be an indictment.”
As for what it means to the Fulton case if Smith obtains an indictment before Willis gets one, “it really shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever,” Akerman said. “She has every right to charge what happened in Georgia as Georgia crimes, particularly the racketeering statute.”
The Fulton County District Attorney’s office declined to comment. Willis has previously said other prosecutions will not impact the Fulton probe.
Trump also faces charges in Manhattan related to “hush money” payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels. With three separate cases likely competing for court time with potential Fulton indictments, scheduling time to get Trump in Georgia in the months ahead could prove to be a logistical headache. The New York trial is scheduled to kick off in March, and the judge in the federal documents case said she is hoping to move forward speedily.
“The Georgia prosecution is absolutely essential because Trump cannot be pardoned by himself, if Trump wins the presidency again, or if another Republican wins and decides to pardon Trump on the federal charges,” Ackerman said.
Norm Eisen, who coauthored a Brookings Institution report on the Fulton probe, said it is not uncommon to have parallel state and federal investigations into similar, alleged criminal misconduct.
“There’s a lane here for federal prosecutors and there’s a lane for state prosecutors, and both lanes are equally important,” Eisen said. But Smith’s case “in no way takes away from the role and indeed the responsibility and the duty of Fani Willis to hold Trump and others accountable, including potentially much more broadly for their wrongdoing that specifically targeted Georgia.”
Trump is seeking re-election to the presidency after losing to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. He and his supporters have attacked the various investigations as politically motivated. That continued Tuesday.
“Joe Biden continues to weaponize the government to target his chief political rival,” said Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for Trump’s Make America Great Again political action committee.
“This is election interference. Polling shows that President Donald Trump is the Republican best positioned to beat Joe Biden,” Leavitt said. “Fortunately, President Trump will not back down. He will be back in the White House and he will restore greatness to our beloved nation.”