Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed several witnesses to appear before a previously unknown grand jury in Florida in connection with the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of national security equipment and obstruction of justice, people close to him say. folder.
The new grand jury activity at the U.S. District Court in Miami marks the latest twist in the investigation that for months has implicated a grand jury that had gathered evidence in the case in Washington but has remained silent since earlier this month. last.
Trump aide Taylor Budowich is scheduled to testify before the Florida grand jury on Wednesday, one of the people said, and the questioning is expected to be led by Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt. seconded to Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation.
Bratt’s previously unreported involvement could suggest that questioning could focus on potential violations of the Espionage Act, particularly if Trump showed national security documents to people at his Mar-a-complex. Lago, a recent target of the survey.
Bratt, who was seen arriving in Miami on Tuesday by the Guardian, has previously appeared before a grand jury as part of the espionage investigation, as opposed to the obstructionist side, which has typically been run by d Smith’s other prosecutors or national security prosecutors. .
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
But the underlying reasons why prosecutors from the Office of Special Advocates created the new grand jury in Florida, and whether it is now the only active grand jury in the case after the Washington grand jury remained inactive for weeks, remain an open question.
Prosecutors would most likely prefer to bring charges in Washington, where U.S. District Court judges are more familiar with handling national security cases, although Florida also has a strong national security section and the group of jurors be more democratic.
The creation of grand juries has to do with where prosecutors believe a crime was committed. And the simplest reason for the Florida grand jury is that prosecutors developed evidence of criminal activity in Mar-a-Lago, which is in the Southern District of Florida.
In this investigation, prosecutors considering charges against Trump for keeping national security material may have concluded from evidence that he was still president when classified documents were transferred to Mar-a-Lago, which means its illegal possession only began in Florida.
Similarly, if prosecutors also developed evidence that Trump knew he kept national security documents after he left office at Mar-a-Lago, such as by waving them or showing people, that could present impediments to the prosecution of violations of the Espionage Act in Washington.
The location of an obstruction of justice charge is more difficult to infer, as courts have provided little guidance on how it should be enforced under Section 1519 of the U.S. Penal Code, than prosecutors listed on the Mar-a-Lago affidavit. Search warrant.
Typically, other obstruction laws state that the venue depends on where the obstructed proceeding took place. In the Trump documents investigation, the subpoena last year demanding the return of classified documents was issued in Washington.
The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, however, has ruled in previous cases that the correct place is where the obstruction took place. If prosecutors are considering obstruction charges for Trump’s actions to conceal classified documents after the subpoena, Florida could be the place.
Regardless of why prosecutors created a new grand jury in Florida, that’s what this indicates in terms of the status of the criminal investigation.
If both the Florida grand jury and the Washington grand jury are active, it could indicate that prosecutors are considering charges in both places and against the same targets. But if the Florida grand jury is the only operating grand jury, that could suggest several things. It could be that the investigation in Washington is largely over and prosecutors have finalized whether to indict Trump and others there, but are still weighing separate charges in Florida.
Or prosecutors could have concluded charges in Washington and risk being removed to an inappropriate location because the crimes took place in Mar-a-Lago and move the whole case to Florida.
Moving the entire case to Florida wouldn’t necessarily be so burdensome for the special counsel, legal experts said, and would simply involve prosecutors reading transcripts of testimony previously given to the Washington grand jury, in addition to interview new witnesses.
For months, prosecutors have been examining whether Trump’s failure to comply with a subpoena demanding the return of any classified documents was a deliberate act of obstruction, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
Last June, Trump’s since-recused attorney Evan Corcoran found 38 classified documents in the Mar-a-Lago storage room and told the Justice Department there was no material left there. , which was called into question when the FBI seized 101 additional classified documents months later. .
Corcoran later told associates he felt misled because he asked if he should look elsewhere in Mar-a-Lago, like Trump’s office, but was fired. , the Guardian first reported. The Corcorans notes also showed that he told Trump he must return all classified documents in his possession.
The investigation also focused on whether Trump showed national security material at his other properties like the Trump Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, including a document regarding military action against Iran. , people familiar with the matter said.
Prosecutors apparently tried to determine if this Iranian document was the same document that Trump had referenced on an audio recording in which he said he could not discuss it because he had not declassified it during his term, although he should have, the Guardian previously reported.
To that end, prosecutors showed an Iranian document to some witnesses who appeared before the grand jury in Washington and asked them if they had ever seen Trump’s or anyone else’s material. It was unclear whether a witness confirmed seeing the document, one of the people said.
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