Jan 6 charges against Trump would add to his mounting legal peril

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Former US president Donald Trump could be facing a third criminal indictment regarding efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Hush-money payments. Classified documents. And now, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that led to the January 6 Capitol attack. 

Already facing criminal cases in New York and Florida, former US president Donald Trump is in increasing legal peril as investigations into his struggle to cling to power after his election loss appear to be coming to a head.

A target letter sent to Trump by special counsel Jack Smith suggests he may soon be indicted on new federal charges. 

Smith’s wide-ranging probe into the chaotic weeks between Trump’s election loss and his supporters’ attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, seems to be nearing an end just as another case could be on the horizon. 

A grand jury that was sworn in this month in Georgia will likely consider whether to charge Trump and his Republican allies for their efforts to reverse his election loss in the state.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the cases and dismissed the prosecutions as a malign effort to hurt his 2024 campaign.

What is the focus of the January 6 probe?

The team led by Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, has questioned a host of former White House officials, Trump allies, lawyers and state election officials both in voluntary interviews and before the grand jury that has been meeting behind closed doors in Washington. 

Those who have testified before the grand jury – which would ultimately hand down any indictment –  include Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, who has spoken extensively in public about the former president’s efforts to pressure him into rejecting President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Smith’s team appears to be interested in a late-night White House meeting on December 18, 2020.  

In videos shown by the US House Committee that investigated the January 6 attack, one White House lawyer said he thought the idea was “nuts.” Judges – including some appointed by Trump – uniformly rejected his claims of voter fraud.

What happens next?

It’s unclear when Smith’s investigation may wrap up. Trump said he was invited to appear before the grand jury this week, though targets of investigations don’t have to testify and rarely agree to do so. 

The grand jury, which meets in secret, would ultimately vote on whether there is enough evidence to charge him with a crime. Federal grand juries are made up of about 16 to 23 people, and at least 12 must agree in order to hand down an indictment.

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