Indictment roof about to fall in on Donald Trump
Does he look worried? Trump clearly knows now that he is about to be indicted soon in the documents case. | Charlie Neibergall/AP

WASHINGTON—The long-looming “roof” of federal indictments of Donald Trump is about to fall in upon the ex-White House denizen’s head.

Multiple news reports say Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith formally wrote to Trump’s lawyers indicating Trump is the “target of” Smith’s investigation into the former Oval Office occupant’s illegal removal of government documents from the White House to his Mar-A-Lago estate.

Such a “target letter” is often quickly followed by criminal charges, veteran prosecutors told the media.

Reports from the Associated Press, the New York Times, several television networks, MSNBC, Roll Call, and the Guardian and the Independent, both published in the United Kingdom, added that grand juries in D.C. and Florida could vote as soon as June 8 to indict Trump.

One charge would be the illegal removal of government papers, especially top-secret ones, from the White House and denying them to their legal post-presidency owner, the National Archives.

Another would be obstruction of justice for both removing them and then not surrendering all of them on demand. The Archives had to get a subpoena and a search warrant to have the FBI enter Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida. to cart dozens of boxes away.  More than 300 classified documents were in the boxes.

And the Independent said Smith would seek to indict Trump for espionage under section 793 of the Espionage Act. As one reference book puts it, that World War I-era statute that criminalizes “spying and sabotage.” Section 793 bars “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” which also includes “refusal to return information respecting the national defense” to proper officials.

And Section 793 adds “anyone who willfully controls any defense document and communicates, delivers or transmits it (defense information)…to any person not entitled to receive it,” orders it to be delivered, tries to deliver it to someone not authorized to get it, or who “willfully retains it and fails to deliver it on demand to U.S. officials” is guilty of espionage and faces a maximum of a $10,000 fine, 20 years in prison, or both.

Smith would cite that last “fails to deliver” section in indicting Trump for espionage, the Independent reported. The documents don’t have to be classified, just defense-related. That means Trump couldn’t claim, again, that he automatically declassified them—in his head. The Mar-A-Lago search warrant said Trump not only illegally held the documents, but cited a potential Espionage Act violation, too.

One key piece of evidence for Smith is not a piece of paper from Mar-A-Lago, but a video of a bragging Trump speech at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., some six months after he left the White House. The video shows Trump crowing and waving one especially sensitive document: A U.S. war plan against Iran. News reports say there were rustling sounds from the document on the video.

Another indication Trump is in legal trouble is that outspoken congressional Trumpite Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, trying to throw a monkey wrench into Smith’s investigation, by prejudicing it.

Became infamous during hearings

Jordan became infamous during House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings in the last Congress for pro-Trump histrionics, with no evidence to back them up. Jordan now chairs Judiciary and wants “more information” about Smith’s probe, which could interfere with it.

Trump himself, on his Truth Social platform, again charged Smith’s pending indictment as a witch hunt, with the objective of pushing him out of the 2024 presidential race. He leads the Republican field.

Smith’s letter to Trump’s lawyers doesn’t mean the former Oval Office occupant is finished with the legal system yet. Far from it.

But it indicates one of Smith’s dual assignments, investigating how and why Trump pilfered the papers from the White House and transported them to Mar-A-Lago, is nearing a wrap-up.

Smith’s other serious probe of Trump—and the one that caused Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint veteran prosecutor Smith in the first place—is still going.

That’s the investigation of Trump’s deep involvement and virtually outright order to the 1,000 Trumpites to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in the coup d’état attempt to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election results, thus keeping Trump in the White House.

The coup try is a source of not one looming legal worry for Trump, but two. The other is Fulton County (Atlanta) DA Fani Willis’s wide-ranging investigation of Trump’s try to steal Georgia’s electoral votes.

Willis has expanded her probe of Trump’s try, exposed in his phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to steal Georgia. That call’s the opposite of Trump’s continuing “Stop the steal!” whine about his 2020 defeat by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Trump demanded Raffensperger “find” him 11,780 more popular votes so Trump could carry the Peach State, by one ballot, thus gaining swing state Georgia’s electoral votes. In the testy—and taped—45-minute call, Raffensperger, a regular pro-business conservative Republican, refused.

Now Willis is using Georgia’s wide-ranging Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law to extend her probe to cover people like Trump, and his top political staffers. And she’s extended it to other states, for corroborating evidence.

Trump also claimed he won six swing states and thus the election. Trump even had fake elector slates sign phony certifications in several of them, including Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Eight of Trump’s Georgia fake electors are now singing, behind closed doors, to Willis’s grand jury in Atlanta.

And in a meeting at the Justice Department on June 6, Trump’s latest team of lawyers tried to head off Special Counsel Smith and the indictments, or at least pry out information. They apparently failed, in yet another indication the legal roof is about to fall in on Trump.

“There’s no purpose in having a meeting if the DOJ has already decided no charges. If they’ve already decided ‘no charges, we’re just going to write up a report’ then no meeting is necessary—no point to it,” former Trump lawyer Tim Parlatore told The Hill. Parlatore had resigned from team Trump, citing conflicts with other lawyers. Trump has cycled through a merry-go-round of lawyers, all paid for via Trump supporters’ campaign contributions.

Added former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance on MSNBC: “What you want to do if you’re a good prosecutor is hear the defense out and make sure you haven’t missed something, because your obligation as a prosecutor isn’t to indict cases, it’s to indict the right cases.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.