Washington: The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has allegedly informed former President Donald Trump that he was the target of a criminal probe into the possible mishandling of classified documents following his exit from the White House, the media reported on Thursday.
Informed sources told CNN on Wednesday that Trump, who is leading in opinion polls to be the Republican Party’s 2024 candidate for president, had been sent a letter, the contents of which have not been made public.
Trump’s legal team met DOJ officials, including special counsel Jack Smith who is heading the probe, about the investigation on Monday, the sources said, adding the meeting focused on the team presenting their allegations of misconduct by prosecutors.
DOJ regulations allow for prosecutors to notify subjects of an investigation that they have become a target.
Often a notification that a person is a target is a strong sign an indictment could follow, but it is possible the recipient is not ultimately charged.
Prosecutors have the discretion to notify subjects that they have become a target. Once informed, a target has the opportunity to present evidence or testify to the grand jury if they choose.
The special counsel’s iprobe has scrutinised Trump’s handling of classified documents he brought with him to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after leaving the White House in January 2021, including actions that were taken after the former President received a subpoena in May 2022 to return all classified materials in his possession, reports CNN.
Last August, FBI agents raided the beachside property and seized some 11,000 documents, including around 100 marked as classified of which some were labelled top secret.
Prosecutors have questioned dozens of witnesses over the past several months, including senior Trump aides and employees at his Florida resort.
In a New York Times interview on Wednesday, Trump denied that he had been told he faces an indictment over his handling of the documents, the BBC reported.
When asked if he had been told he is a target of a federal investigation, he told the Times “you have to understand” that he was not in direct touch with prosecutors.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has criticised the DOJ’s investigation as “politically motivated” and a “witch-hunt”.
Any indictment over his handling of classified documents would come after Trump became the first former President to be charged with a crime, after he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records over a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
He faces a trial in that case in New York next year.