Watch CBS News

Special counsel's office cited 3 federal laws in Trump target letter

New details revealed in Jan. 6 Trump investigation
New details revealed in Justice Department's Jan. 6 Trump investigation 01:55

Washington — The letter from special counsel Jack Smith's office to former President Donald Trump informing him that he is the target of a criminal investigation into his actions after the 2020 election cited three federal statutes, according to a senior Trump source.

Two of the statutes relate to conspiracy to commit an offense or to defraud the U.S., and deprivation of rights under color of law. The third includes potential charges ranging from obstruction of an official proceeding to tampering with a witness, victim or an informant. 

The target letter was the clearest indication yet that Trump could soon face charges related to his attempts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election. Smith's office has been investigating alleged efforts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power, including the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, since he was appointed special counsel last November. No charges stemming from this investigation have been filed against the former president, who has denied all wrongdoing and claimed any potential prosecution would be politically motivated.

The statutes mentioned in the letter offer some insight into the potential legal basis for possible future charges. Hundreds of defendants in the Justice Department's probe into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have faced obstruction-related charges. Deprivation of rights under color of law entails using the guise of legal authority to take away constitutional or legal rights. 

The former president revealed on Tuesday that he received the letter, and multiple sources confirmed to CBS News that the former president's post was accurate. A senior Trump source said Trump received the target letter on Sunday night.

Sources close to witnesses in the grand jury's probe have told CBS News that Smith is building a case focused on how Trump acted after he was informed that claiming the 2020 election had been rigged could put him at legal risk. The special counsel is also said to be examining whether Trump criminally conspired to block congressional certification of the Electoral College votes. 

Smith has also led the investigation into the former president's handling of classified documents. The former president faces more than three dozen federal charges in federal court in South Florida in that case, and has pleaded not guilty.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.