WASHINGTON, July 19 — Former US president Donald Trump said yesterday he expected to be charged over the January 6 attack on the US Capitol — an indictment that would ramp up his legal woes as he makes another White House run.

Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is already facing criminal charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith for mishandling top secret government documents after leaving office.

Trump said he received a letter from Smith on Sunday stating that he’s a target of the probe into January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed Congress in a bid to prevent certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

“Deranged Jack Smith, the prosecutor with Joe Biden’s DOJ, sent a letter... stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6 Grand Jury investigation,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform.

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The 77-year-old Trump said he was given four days to report to a grand jury, “which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment”.

“This witch hunt is all about election interference and a complete and total political weaponization of law enforcement,” he said. “It is a very sad and dark period for our Nation!”

It was not immediately clear what charges Trump may face, and a target letter does not always result in an indictment.

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Before the Capitol attack, Trump delivered a fiery speech nearby urging the crowd to “fight like hell”, and Smith has spent months looking into January 6 and Trump’s other efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

An unnamed advisor to Trump told the Post the former president would decline to appear before the January 6 grand jury, which has already heard testimony from a number of close Trump associates.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested for taking part in what prosecutors have called an insurrection intended to keep Trump in the White House.

Most of them face charges of illegally entering the Capitol or causing property damage, but some 350 have been charged with assaulting law enforcement officers or resisting arrest.

Others, including members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, have been convicted of the more serious charge of seditious conspiracy.

‘Distraction’

Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is also vying for the 2024 Republican nomination, told Fox News another Trump indictment would be a “distraction.”

“We can’t keep dealing with this drama,” Haley said. “And that’s why I’m running. We need a new generational leader.”

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, accused Biden, who is running for re-election, of using the justice system to “go after their number one opponent.”

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff denounced McCarthy’s remarks as a “shameful” attempt to “provide cover for a corrupt former president.”

Trump was indicted by Smith in June for allegedly stashing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida — the first former US president to face criminal charges.

Trump is charged with “wilful retention of national defence information,” conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements and other offenses.

Prosecutors have asked US District Judge Aileen Cannon for a December trial date, while Trump’s defence attorneys have asked for it to begin after the November 2024 White House vote.

At a hearing in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Tuesday, Cannon was sceptical about delaying the trial until after the 2024 election but also appeared doubtful it could be held in December, The Washington Post reported.

She said she would issue a decision on a trial date “promptly.”

Georgia probe

Georgia prosecutors are also investigating whether Trump illegally attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election outcome in the southern state.

In his Truth Social post, Trump said he has “the right to protest an Election that I am fully convinced was Rigged and Stolen” and he was being targeted because of the upcoming vote.

The Justice Department has “effectively issued a third indictment and Arrest of Joe Biden’s NUMBER ONE POLITICAL OPPONENT, who is largely dominating him in the race for the Presidency,” Trump said.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before.”

Asked about Trump’s potential indictment, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said, “the president respects the Department of Justice, their independence.”

Trump pleaded not guilty in New York earlier this year in a case involving election-eve hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who said she had an affair with him.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives in 2019 for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine, and again after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, but was acquitted by the Senate both times. — AFP