6 min read

Trump document charges appear close

Donald Trump is now — officially — a target of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Trump document charges appear close
Classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago during an FBI raid in 2022. (Justice Department)
Good morning! It’s Thursday, June 8, 2023. The 2024 elections are 516 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Special Counsel Jack Smith appears to be getting ready to decide whether to bring criminal charges in his investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents.

Here are three signs that the probe is nearing a conclusion:

  1. Smith reportedly sent Trump a letter notifying him that he is the target of a criminal investigation, which prosecutors typically do shortly before charging someone. Per Justice Department guidelines, someone is considered a target when “the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime.”
  2. A trio of Trump’s lawyers recently met with Smith at the Justice Department. Such is a meeting is another step that commonly precedes an indictment, to give a potential defendant’s attorneys the opportunity to press their case for why charge should not be filed.
  3. Smith empaneled a new grand jury in Miami, which has been hearing evidence in the case in addition to his original grand jury in Washington. According to the Washington Post, Smith’s team now expects a “significant portion of any charges” stemming from the documents investigation would be brought in Miami.

Why does the switch from Washington to Miami matter? According to the Sixth Amendment, all criminal charges must be brought in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

In this case, arguments could be made for either Washington or Florida to be the proper charging venue: the potential crime Trump is under investigation for — taking more than 300 classified documents with him after his presidency — began in Washington, where the documents originated, and ended in south Florida, with Trump taking them to Mar-a-Lago.

Smith is also investigating Trump for obstructing the documents investigation, including by flouting a subpoena to return them. These actions largely took place at Mar-a-Lago: prosecutors are closely examining why boxes of documents were moved throughout the resort after the subpoena was served, and why Trump himself was looking through the boxes during this period. (Dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff members have testified in the investigation, as have more than 20 members of Trump’s Secret Service detail.)

If Smith were to charge Trump in Washington, Trump’s legal team would likely file a motion to change the venue, which could eat up months of time — something Smith can avoid by filing the charges in Florida. Due to their comparative political makeups, a jury in Washington would be seen as more disposed to find Trump guilty than a jury in Florida.

Moving focus to Florida should not significantly slow down Smith’s investigation as it reaches its final stages. Any evidence, including transcripts of witness testimony, that has been introduced to the grand jury in Washington can simply be presented to the Florida jurors.

The Florida grand jury has already begun hearing from new witnesses: Taylor Budowich, who leads the main super PAC supporting Trump’s 2024 candidacy, testified before it on Wednesday. According to the New York Times, prosecutors were particularly interested in a draft statement Trump wanted to send in 2022 — when Budowich was his spokesman — falsely declaring that he had returned all government documents in his possession. (The statement was never sent.)

The documents investigation is not Smith’s only probe into Trump’s conduct. The special counsel is also overseeing an investigation — which does not seem as close to wrapping up — into Trump’s actions after the 2020 election and during the January 6 riot. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was recently subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in that investigation, per NBC News.

In addition, Trump has already been indicted for falsifying business documents by the Manhattan district attorney and is under investigation for election interference by a district attorney in Georgia. The charges in Manhattan made Trump the first former president to be indicted; any charges by Smith would make him the first former president to face a federal indictment as well.

More news you should know

A view from New York City on Wednesday. (Armando Torres-García / Twitter)

— The air quality in New York City was worse than it has ever been recorded on Wednesday, as a hazardous plume of smoke from Canadian wildfires drifts into the East Coast of the United States. According to experts, the increased wildfires are being fueled by climate change. The dense smoke could last for several days.

— Former Vice President Mike Pence delivered his strongest rebuke yet against Donald Trump, his former running mate, while launching his rival 2024 bid on Wednesday. “Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States,” Pence said, referring to Trump’s attempts to remain as president after his 2020 loss.

House Republicans have canceled votes for the rest of the week as a standoff continues between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and roughly a dozen conservative lawmakers. Angered by the debt ceiling deal, the faction of firebrands is seeking to renegotiate the January agreement with McCarthy that made him speaker; amid the logjam, tensions are emerging between McCarthy and his No. 2, Steve Scalise.

— The House Oversight Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing today to consider holding FBI director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress, but chairman James Comer canceled the proceedings after Wray agreed to let panel members review a document containing unconfirmed allegations of bribery against Joe Biden.

— Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been dogged by reports about undisclosed gifts received from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, requested an extension on filing his annual financial disclosure form on Wednesday. Justice Samuel Alito also requested an extension.

Ukraine has reportedly launched its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia, after months of massing troops near the front lines.    

— Conservative minister and broadcaster Pat Robertson died this morning at age 93. Robertson, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988, helped make evangelical Christians a central constituency in the Republican Party.

Today’s political planner

Rishi Sunak throwing out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game this week. (Number 10)

President Biden will meet with British prime minister Rishi Sunak and hold a joint press conference with him. The two leaders are expected to discuss economic cooperation, the war in Ukraine, and the rise of artificial intelligence. Later tonight, Biden will host a concert for Pride Month featuring Betty Who.

Vice President Harris will leave this morning for Nassau, The Bahamas. After arriving, she will meet with Bahamian prime minister Philip Davis and co-host the U.S.-Caribbean Leaders Meeting. Later tonight, she will hold a meet and greet with U.S. embassy staff before returning to Washington.

The Senate is scheduled to hold confirmation votes on two nominees: Dilawar Syed, to be deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Molly Silfen, to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. If confirmed, Syed would be the highest-ranking Muslim in the Biden administration.

The House will not meet today as a standoff between Speaker McCarthy and Republican rebels drags on.

The Supreme Court will release new opinions at 10 a.m. Eastern Time and then meet for its weekly conference.

Thanks for reading.

I get up each morning to write Wake Up To Politics because I’m committed to offering an independent and reliable news source that helps you navigate our political system and understand what’s going on in government.

The newsletter is completely free and ad-free — but if you appreciate the work that goes into it, here’s how you can help:

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.‌‌‌‌

Thanks so much for waking up to politics! Have a great day.‌‌‌‌

— Gabe