Federal prosecutors formally informed Donald Trump’s lawyers last week that the former president is a target of the criminal investigation examining his retention of national security materials at his Mar-a-Lago resort and obstruction of justice, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The move dramatically raises the stakes for Trump, as the investigation nears its conclusion after taking evidence before a grand jury in Washington and a previously unknown grand jury in Florida.
Trump’s lawyers were sent a “target letter” days before they met on Monday with the special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the Mar-a-Lago documents case, and the senior career official in the deputy attorney general’s office, where they asked prosecutors not to charge the former president. Trump has reportedly said he had not been personally informed by the justice department that he was a target when asked directly by a New York Times reporter, but demurred when asked whether his legal team had been told about the designation.
The development comes as prosecutors have obtained evidence of criminal conduct occurring at Mar-a-Lago and decided that any indictments should be charged in the southern district of Florida, where the resort is located, rather than in Washington.