Former US President Donald Trump has said that he has been informed by authorities that he is a target in a federal United States investigation into the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot – the latest legal woe that he would be facing as he campaigns for the White House again in 2024.
Trump said in a statement on Tuesday that he had received a letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith on Sunday asking him to report to a grand jury – an investigative panel – in four days, “which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment”.
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Federal authorities have not confirmed Trump’s account. Smith’s office declined to comment on the former president’s claims when reached by Al Jazeera.
Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump had been falsely claiming that he lost the 2020 vote due to widespread election fraud.
Late last year, a congressional panel investigating the attack recommended criminal charges against Trump.
Trump, who is comfortably leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to public opinion polls, was charged by federal prosecutors last month over accusations of mishandling classified documents.
The former president pleaded not guilty to the charges. A federal judge in Florida will hold the first pre-trial hearing on the case later on Tuesday. Defence lawyers and prosecutors are expected to argue over the trial date and how the secret government documents at the heart of the case would be handled during the proceedings.
He was also charged in New York earlier this year for allegedly falsifying business records. Those state-level charges came in relation to a hush-money payment made to a porn star in advance of the 2016 elections.
Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for attempting to interfere with the state’s 2020 election result. A court on Monday rejected his lawyers’ petition to block the investigation.
Trump is the first former president to be criminally prosecuted. He has denied wrongdoing in all the cases, claiming that he is being targeted politically. Criminal charges do not prevent Trump from running for president or serving a second term in the White House.
On Tuesday, he called Smith “deranged”, renewing his attack on the prosecutor who is leading all federal investigations into the former president.
“This witch hunt is all about election interference and a complete and total political weaponization of law enforcement,” Trump’s statement said in all-caps.
In a rare public comment while announcing the charges in the classified documents case, Smith stressed equality under the law last month, without specifically responding to Trump’s attacks.
“We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone,” Smith told reporters. “Applying those laws, collecting facts – that’s what determines the outcome of an investigation, nothing more, nothing less.”
Legal issues do not appear to be affecting Trump’s popularity among Republican voters so far. In fact, he saw a boost in his poll numbers following the previous indictments.
Trump’s campaign solicited donations from supporters in an email after the former president’s announcement on Tuesday.
“Our Republic is hanging by a thread, and America needs you right now,” Trump said in the email. “Please make a contribution to show that you will NEVER SURRENDER our country to tyranny as the Deep State thugs try to JAIL me for life.”
Republicans, including the former president’s 2024 rivals, have largely defended Trump against criminal charges, while Democrats have been stressing that “no one is above the law”.
The White House has consistently declined to comment on legal issues involving Trump, stressing that it does not interfere in criminal investigations.
Some right-wing lawmakers were quick to voice support for Trump on Tuesday.
I STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP!!!
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) July 18, 2023
It remains unclear what aspects of Trump’s possible role in the January 6 attack the prosecutors are targeting.
The January 6 committee in Congress, which disbanded after months of public hearings in 2022, had squarely blamed Trump for the riot.
“The central cause of January 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him,” the panel said in its final report.
Republicans had dismissed the findings of that panel as partisan. Two Republican lawmakers had served on the panel, but they fell out with their party and are no longer in Congress.