A federal grand jury in Miami continued hearing from witnesses on Wednesday in the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents as tensions ran high among his aides that charges might soon be filed against him.
Among those who appeared for questions before the grand jury was Taylor Budowich, a former spokesman to Mr. Trump who now is a top adviser at the super PAC supporting Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy.
A few hours after Mr. Budowich left the grand jury, the conservative writer John Solomon published an article claiming that federal prosecutors had notified the former president that he was a target of their investigation and was likely to be indicted “imminently.” Mr. Solomon also serves as one of Mr. Trump’s representatives to the National Archives.
Mr. Trump said it was “not true” that he had been told he would be indicted. But when asked by The New York Times if he had been told he was a target of a federal investigation, Mr. Trump did not respond directly, saying “you have to understand” that he is not in direct touch with prosecutors. He repeated that “it’s not true” that he was told he would be indicted.
A short time later, Mr. Trump, who was at his club in Bedminster, N.J., posted a message denying Mr. Solomon’s claim on his social media platform.
“No one has told me I’m being indicted,” Mr. Trump wrote, “and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI.”
The harried back-and-forth came amid real indications that the special counsel, Jack Smith, was nearing the end of his investigation in the case and was approaching a decision about whether to bring an indictment.
On Monday, three of Mr. Trump’s lawyers met with Mr. Smith and other prosecutors at the Justice Department in what people close to Mr. Trump described as a final chance to stave off charges and inform department officials about what they consider misconduct by Mr. Smith’s team.
Mr. Budowich appeared at the Miami courthouse around 9 a.m. for an hour or two of questions.
One matter that prosecutors were interested in asking about was a statement that Mr. Trump had his aides draft shortly after news broke that National Archives officials had recovered 15 boxes of material from him in January 2022. Mr. Budowich was Mr. Trump’s spokesman at the time.
The statement that Mr. Trump initially wanted to send, according to two people briefed on the matter, said that he had returned all the presidential material he had. A draft was written, according to people familiar with the matter. Prosecutors have that draft and have asked witnesses about emails that aides sent about it, according to the people briefed on the matter.
The contention in the statement that Mr. Trump had returned all government records in his possession turned out to be false. After finding that the 15 boxes contained highly sensitive documents, prosecutors issued a subpoena demanding the return of any classified documents still in Mr. Trump’s possession. Mr. Trump’s lawyers subsequently turned over more, but when the F.B.I. later searched Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, it found another trove of classified material.
The statement that Mr. Trump actually sent out after the return of the 15 boxes in early 2022 did not assert that he had returned all the government material in his possession.
After his grand jury appearance ended, Mr. Budowich posted a message on Twitter saying he answered “every question honestly.” He described the inquiry as “a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to ‘get’ Trump.”
His lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined to comment.
Mr. Budowich’s appearance came amid signs that Mr. Smith was nearing the end of the documents investigation and was poised to make a decision about whether to bring charges. In court papers last year, prosecutors indicated that they were scrutinizing whether Mr. Trump broke laws governing the handling of national security documents and whether he obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.
The special counsel’s office is also conducting a separate inquiry in Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The status of that investigation seems to be lagging somewhat behind the classified documents case.
Most of the documents investigation has been conducted by a grand jury sitting in Washington, which has heard from numerous witnesses over the past several months, including some of Mr. Trump’s White House advisers; some low-level workers at Mar-a-Lago; and more than 20 members of his Secret Service security detail.
Only a handful of witnesses — including some Mar-a-Lago employees — have appeared so far before the grand jury in Miami, which seems to have started hearing evidence last month, according to people familiar with its workings. It remains uncertain how many more witnesses are scheduled to testify before the Miami grand jury.
Recently, there have been indications that the grand jury in Washington has either expired or paused hearing testimony, according to several people familiar with its workings. Some of those people said the last witnesses to appear for questioning in Washington did so in early or mid-May.
Should prosecutors ultimately charge Mr. Trump — which he and some of his advisers are said to believe is likely — it remains an open question whether Mr. Smith’s team would file an indictment in Washington, Miami or both cities.
While many of the central events in the documents inquiry occurred in Florida — perhaps most notably a search of Mar-a-Lago last summer — the case was opened by national security prosecutors working out of the Justice Department in Washington. Legal experts have debated which location would provide prosecutors with the best venue to sustain criminal charges.
The post Possible Charges Loom as Testimony Continues in Trump Documents Case appeared first on New York Times.