A federal grand jury in Miami continued Wednesday to hear witnesses in the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents as tensions ran high among his aides and advisers that charges could soon be filed against him.
Among those who appeared for questions before the grand jury was Taylor Budowich, a former Trump spokesman who is now a top super PAC adviser in support of Trump’s presidential bid.
Just hours after Mr. Budowich left the grand jury, which is sitting in the Federal District Court in Miami, John Solomon, a conservative writer who is one of Mr. Trump’s representatives at the National Archives, published an article alleging that federal prosecutors had informed the former president that he was the target of their investigation and would likely be indicted « imminently » in the documents case.
The New York Times reached out to Mr. Trump directly to ask if he had been told he would be indicted, and said that « that wasn’t true. » But when asked if he had been told he was under a federal investigation, Trump didn’t respond directly, saying « you have to understand » that he is not in direct contact with prosecutors and further adding « that’s not true » that he was told he would be indicted.
A short time later, Mr. Trump, who was at his club in Bedminster, NJ, posted a message denying Mr. Solomon’s claim on his social media platform, Truth Social.
“Nobody told me I was indicted,” Trump wrote, “and I shouldn’t be because I have done NOTHING wrong, but I thought for years I was a WEAPONIZED DOJ and FBI target.”
The harried back-and-forth came amid real indications that special counsel, Jack Smith, was nearing the end of his investigation into the documents case and getting closer to a decision on whether to bring charges.
On Monday, three of Mr. Trump’s lawyers met with Mr. Smith and other Justice Department prosecutors in what people close to Mr. Trump have described as a last chance to avoid charges and inform senior department officials about what which they consider misconduct. from Mr. Smith’s team.
Mr. Budowich showed up at the Miami courthouse around 9am for what turned out to be an hour or two of questioning.
One matter prosecutors were interested in asking was a statement that Mr. Trump had his assistants draft it shortly after news broke that National Archives officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from him in January 2022. Mr. Budowich was Mr. Trump’s spokesman at the time.
The statement that Mr. Trump originally wanted to send, according to two people familiar with the matter, said he had returned all the presidential materials he had. A draft of the statement has been pieced together, according to people familiar with the matter. Prosecutors have that draft statement and have asked witnesses about emails sent between aides about it, according to people briefed on the matter.
The claim in the statement that Mr. Trump had returned all government documents in his possession turned out to be false. After discovering that the 15 boxes contained highly sensitive documents, prosecutors issued a subpoena demanding the return of any confidential documents still in Mr. Trump’s possession. Mr. Trump’s lawyers subsequently turned in more, but when the FBI later searched Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, they found another treasure trove of classified material.
The statement that Mr. Trump actually sent after the 15 boxes were returned in early 2022 did not state that he had returned all of the government materials in his possession.
Following his grand jury appearance, Mr Budowich posted a message on Twitter saying he answered « every question honestly ». He described the grand jury inquiry as « a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to ‘get’ Trump. »
His attorney, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined to comment.
Mr. Budowich’s appearance came amid signs that Mr. Smith was nearing the end of his investigation into the documents and was ready to make a decision on whether to press charges against Mr. Trump or some of his associates. In court documents from last year, prosecutors indicated they were investigating whether Mr. Trump had violated laws governing the handling of national security documents and whether he had obstructed government efforts to recover them.
The office of the special counsel is also conducting a separate investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The status of that investigation appears to lag somewhat behind the classified documents case.
Most of the investigation into the documents was conducted by a grand jury sitting in Washington, which heard numerous witnesses in recent months, including some of Trump’s White House advisers; some low-level workers in Mar-a-Lago; and also more than 20 members of his Secret Service security detail.
Only a handful of witnesses — including some Mar-a-Lago employees — have appeared before the Miami grand jury so far, which appears to have begun hearing evidence last month, according to people familiar with how it works. It remains uncertain how many more witnesses will have to testify before the Miami grand jury, which sits in the city’s federal courthouse.
Recently, there have been indications that the grand jury in Washington has timed out or suspended hearing testimony, according to several people familiar with how it works. Some of these people said the last witnesses to appear for questioning in Washington did so in early or mid-May.
If prosecutors ultimately indict Mr. Trump — which he and some of his advisers believe likely — it remains an open question whether Mr. Smith’s team will file an indictment in Washington, Miami, or perhaps both cities.
While many of the central events in the investigation into the documents occurred in Florida — perhaps most notably an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last summer — the case was opened by national security prosecutors working at the Washington Department of Justice. Legal experts debated which venue would provide prosecutors with the best venue to argue criminal charges.