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Trump criminal target letter in election probe cites laws on conspiracy, witness tampering

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 7, 2023.

Scott Morgan | Reuters

The target letter that special counsel Jack Smith recently sent lawyers for former President Donald Trump mentions three federal criminal statutes, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The target letter also mentions a third criminal statute, deprivation of rights under color of law, according to NBC, which cited two attorneys with direct knowledge of the letter.

Smith is investigating Trump and various allies of the former president for their efforts to reverse his loss in the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

Those efforts included the submission of false Electoral College slates, various legal challenges to state election results, testimony to state lawmakers, and Trump’s pressuring Georgia’s top election official to change the election results.

Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election.

Trump on Tuesday disclosed that Smith had sent his lawyers the letter, which is typically issued by the Department of Justice to give people a chance to testify to a grand jury after the discovery of substantial evidence linking them to a crime.

The details of the federal statutes mentioned letter were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. can include acts that “interfere or obstruct legitimate Government activity,” or that “make use of a government instrumentality,” the Department of Justice notes on its website.

The DOJ’s site detailing deprivation of rights under color of law notes that it is a “crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States..”

The statute specifically mentions acts committed by federal, state and local officials.

The statute on witness tampering covers a broad array of criminal conduct, including persuading another person to prevent their testimony in an official proceeding, and destroying or concealing a document with the intent to impair its use for an official proceeding.

Separately on Wednesday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Smith’s prosecutors had subpoenaed surveillance video footage recorded at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta during vote counting there after the 2020 election.

Trump’s campaign lawyers had used surveillance footage from the vote count to argue without success in December 2020 that Georgia’s presidential election was tainted by fraud. Biden won Georgia’s popular vote.

Smith last month charged Trump with about three dozen felonies related to his keeping classified documents at his Florida home after leaving the White House, and for allegedly obstructing government officials when they tried to recover those records from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case. His lawyers have asked the judge in that case to delay trial until at least after the 2024 presidential election.


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