According to US media reports, Donald Trump has been informed of a criminal investigation regarding his handling of classified files after leaving Washington. The notification from federal prosecutors suggests that he may soon face charges.
This would mark the second indictment for Mr Trump, who is campaigning for the presidency again. Since last year, prosecutors have been examining the transfer of files to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. In August of the previous year, the property was searched, resulting in the seizure of 11,000 documents, including approximately 100 classified ones, some labelled top secret.
In an interview, Mr Trump denied being informed about an indictment related to his handling of the documents. However, CNN, ABC News, and Politico all reported that Mr Trump had received a letter notifying him of the criminal investigation. While the move suggests imminent charges, he may not ultimately be charged.
According to sources familiar with the matter cited by The New York Times, the notification originated from the office of Jack Smith, a former war crimes attorney turned special prosecutor who is reviewing the evidence. CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, stated that a source close to Mr Trump confirmed that he is the subject of a criminal investigation but did not explicitly confirm the receipt of a formal letter.
This development comes after the prosecutors obtained an audio recording in which Mr Trump acknowledges retaining a classified document after leaving the White House. The specific details of the documents in question remain unclear, but typically, classified material contains sensitive information that could potentially harm national security if disclosed.
It is illegal under US law for federal officials, including the president, to remove or retain classified documents in an unauthorized location. Grand juries, convened by prosecutors to assess whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue prosecution, have reportedly met in Miami and Washington to examine the evidence. Testimony was provided to the Miami jury by Taylor Budowich, a former aide and spokesperson for Mr Trump, raising the possibility that any charges could be filed in Florida for procedural reasons.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump’s legal team met with investigators at the Department of Justice in Washington. While leading in opinion polls as the potential Republican Party candidate for the 2024 presidency, Mr Trump consistently denies any wrongdoing and criticizes the Justice Department’s investigation as politically motivated and a “witch-hunt.”
If indicted for his handling of classified documents, it would mark the first time a former president is charged with a crime. Previously, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a hush-money payment to a porn star. He is scheduled to face trial in New York next year.