Donald Trump says he was accused of mishandling classified documents


MIAMI (AP) — Donald Trump says he has been accused of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, triggering a federal prosecution that is perhaps the most dangerous of multiple legal threats against the former president as he tries to reclaim the White House.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment or confirmation.

THIS IS A HATE NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

MIAMI (AP) — Former President Donald Trump and his aides are bracing for a potential indictment in the classified documents probe, as prosecutors handling the probe appeared in a Miami courtroom Thursday where a grand jury heard from witnesses.

Lawyers for the former president have been told he is the target of the investigation, the clearest indication yet that criminal charges could be coming soon, according to two people familiar with the matter. In an effort to fend off a potential impeachment, aides in the past two days have been reaching out to Trump allies in Congress to be prepared to go on television and offer defenses to the former president, according to another person familiar with the matter.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters related to the secret grand jury process.

Meanwhile, a grand jury in Miami heard from at least one additional witness this week — a former top Trump adviser — as signs continued to mount that prosecutors were moving toward a potential indictment related to the manipulation of hundreds of classified documents at Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.

On Monday, his lawyers met with Justice Department officials in Washington to argue against an indictment, storming out of the building less than two hours later without comment. Meanwhile, Trump has posted on social media this week suggesting he anticipates being impeached and has stepped up attacks on special counsel Jack Smith and his team. And a key prosecutor on the team, David Harbach, was spotted outside the courthouse Thursday by an Associated Press reporter.

The notification to Trump’s lawyers that he is a target is particularly foreboding, given that such a warning often, though not always, precedes criminal charges. The Department of Justice defines a target as someone for whom prosecutors have substantial evidence related to a crime.

“The signal is increasingly that the charges against the former president will be in Florida,” said Brandon Van Grack, a former Justice Department prosecutor and a key lawyer on a previous special counsel team that investigated ties between Russia and the campaign Trump since 2016.

Trump’s lawyers did not return calls seeking comment. A Trump spokesman would not confirm or deny that he had received a letter, and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

On Wednesday, Taylor Budowich, who served as Trump’s spokesman after his presidency and now runs a pro-Trump super PAC, testified before the grand jury. He confirmed his appearance on Twitter, writing: “Today, in what can only be described as a disingenuous and deeply disturbing effort to use the power of government to ‘get’ Trump, I have fulfilled my legal obligation to file testimony before a federal grand jury. and answered every question honestly.”

A variety of witnesses, including Trump lawyers, close aides to the former president and Trump Organization officials, have appeared before a grand jury in Washington over the past year as part of a Justice Department special counsel investigation into Trump regarding the storage of hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and potential obstacles to the government’s efforts to reclaim the records.

But the existence of a separate grand jury in Florida adds a wrinkle to an investigation that has been largely shrouded in mystery and considered to be in its final stages. It suggests that prosecutors may seek criminal charges in Florida, where the documents were taken after Trump left the White House and where more of the alleged obstruction took place, instead of in Washington.

Although most of the investigative work was done in Washington, prosecutors could simply read key testimony to the Florida grand jury or have a summary witness summarize all the key evidence, Van Grack said.

Trump’s lawyers met Monday at the Justice Department with officials, including Smith, as part of an effort by the legal team to raise concerns about what they say is prosecutorial misconduct and try to to argue against a potential indictment. After that meeting, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform in all caps, “How can the DOJ charge me, who did nothing wrong,” when no other presidents have been charged.

He also called into a radio show where he confirmed the meeting with his lawyers and said: “Well, I can only say this: they came in and saw them and said they are very unfair. No other president has ever been accused of anything like this.”

On Wednesday, he published a new post on social media in which he said: “Nobody told me I was charged and I shouldn’t be because I did NOTHING wrong, but I assumed for years that I was a target of the DOJ and the armed FBI.”

In a radio interview on WABC on Thursday, Trump repeated his familiar sentiments against the investigation, calling it “a disgrace” and casting the dossier as part of a larger politically motivated campaign against him.

Trump’s super PAC, meanwhile, has distributed talking points denouncing Smith and describing him as intent on targeting Trump, though a person familiar with the Trump campaign’s thinking denied that any specific activity and said the campaign has been in contact with allies on Capitol Hill because always.

A veteran corruption and war crimes prosecutor, Smith was tapped in November to serve as special counsel. As the former head of the Justice Department’s public integrity division, he oversaw investigations into several prominent Democrats, a record that likely insulates him from attacks by Trump allies that he is a partisan prosecutor.

The investigation focused not only on the possession of classified documents, including at the top-secret level, but also on Trump’s refusal to return the records when asked and possible obstruction.

The FBI issued a subpoena for classified records at the property last year, and after it became suspicious that Trump and his representatives had not returned all the documents, they returned with a search warrant and recovered another 100 with classification markings.

Beyond the Mar-a-Lago investigation, another investigation in Washington, also led by Smith, is focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.


Colvin in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report. Associated Press reporters Adriana Gomez Licon and Daniel Kozin in Miami and Michelle L. Price also contributed.


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