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Justice Department charges against Trump would come in Florida

Mar-a-Lago, the residence of former president Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Fla.HILARY SWIFT/NYT

Justice Department prosecutors are planning to bring a significant portion of any charges stemming from the possible mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the home of former president Donald Trump, at a nearby federal court in south Florida, according to people familiar with the matter.

The legal rationale for such a move is that the bulk of the conduct at issue in the investigation occurred in the southern district of Florida, in and around Trump’s Palm Beach residence and private club, even if much of the investigation — led by special counsel Jack Smith — has been handled by a grand jury in D.C., these people said.


That approach by prosecutors does not rule out the possibility of some charges, such as perjury or false statements, being filed in Washington in connection with grand jury appearances or law enforcement interviews that took place there, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal discussions.

A former aide to Trump, Taylor Budowich, appeared Wednesday before the federal grand jury in Miami. Other witnesses have appeared before the same grand jury in recent weeks, a person familiar with the matter said.

If Trump is charged on his home turf, he could face a significantly different jury pool than the one in Washington. Such a move could also speed the path to a trial, said former federal prosecutor Randall D. Eliason, because it could eliminate potential legal challenges about whether charges were being brought in the right place.

“Because these are complicated issues that might go either way, you don’t want to risk spending the first year fighting over venue” and then perhaps being forced to move, said Eliason, a George Washington University law school adjunct professor. “The bottom line is that the venue issues could be complicated and could easily result in two separate indictments with different charges and/or different defendants in D.C. and Florida.”


The Justice Department’s manual calls for charges to be filed where the alleged crimes or parts of the alleged crimes were committed, though in practice federal prosecutors often apply that standard loosely. For example, improperly removing documents from Washington could be charged in the nation’s capital. But wrongfully retaining documents in Florida after the government demanded them back or showing classified information there to an unauthorized person might be more properly charged in Florida.

The criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material has been going on for more than a year, and attorneys for the former president say they expect Smith to finalize a charging decision in coming weeks. Trump advisers say they are preparing for a potential indictment of the former president, who has denied any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, Trump posted on social media: “No one has told me I’m being indicted, 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.”

Trump’s lawyers met with Smith and other officials at Justice Department headquarters in Washington on Monday to make the case that their client should not be charged, people familiar with the matter said this week. Such meetings often happen as federal investigations get close to finishing.

Budowich, who now leads a pro-Trump super PAC, was seen arriving at the federal courthouse in Miami on Wednesday. At 11:31 a.m., Budowich tweeted that he had “fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front [of] a federal grand jury.” His appearance lasted about an hour.


“I answered every question honestly,” the tweet said.

Prosecutors were at least partially interested in Budowich because of his role in an episode involving Trump in early 2022, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret. After sending boxes of materials from his Mar-a-Lago home and private club to the National Archives and Records Administration, which catalogues and preserves presidential records, Trump drafted a lengthy statement saying he had given “everything” back to the federal government, The Washington Post has reported.

But Budowich did not release Trump’s statement after consulting with lawyers and advisers for the former president, people familiar with the episode said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. At least some of Trump’s advisers did not believe he had returned “everything” at the time, the people said, even though the archives had been asking for months for Trump to give back any government material in his possession, as required by federal law.

Several days later, Trump issued a different statement that did not include the claim that everything had been returned.

Around the same time, a Trump lawyer rebuffed the former president’s request to tell the archives he had returned everything, The Post has reported, because the lawyer was not sure such an assertion was true.


Prosecutors have reviewed a draft of Trump’s statement, which contains at least one tangent about Germany and an overseas oil pipeline, the people familiar with the matter said. Multiple witnesses have been questioned by prosecutors about the statement, the people said, and asked whether Trump ever asked them to lie or mislead anyone about whether he continued to maintain classified information in his possession.

Washington Post

Guilty plea in plot to kidnap Mich. governor

BELLAIRE, Mich. — A man accused of aiding a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor pleaded guilty Wednesday, the ninth conviction in state and federal courts since agents broke up an astonishing scheme by antigovernment rebels in 2020.

Shawn Fix said he provided material support for an act of terrorism, namely the strategy to snatch Governor Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in Antrim County. Prosecutors agreed to drop a weapon charge.

Fix trained with a militia, the Wolverine Watchmen, for “politically motivated violence,” prosecutors have said, and hosted a five-hour meeting at his Belleville home where there was much discussion about kidnapping Whitmer.

Fix, 40, acknowledged helping plot leader Adam Fox pinpoint the location of Whitmer’s home, key information that was used for a 2020 ride to find the property in northern Michigan.

“Guilty,” Fix told the judge.

He appeared in an Antrim County court, one of five people charged in that leg of the investigation. A co-defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in March, leaving three other men to face trial in August.

Fix, who faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, agreed to testify if called by prosecutors.


The main kidnapping conspiracy case was handled in federal court, where four men, including ringleaders Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted. Two others were acquitted.

Separately, three men were convicted at trial in Jackson County, the site of militia training, and are serving long prison terms.

Whitmer, a Democrat, was targeted as part of a broad effort by anti-government extremists to trigger a civil war around the time of the 2020 presidential election, investigators said. Her COVID-19 policies, which shut down schools and restricted the economy, were deeply scorned by foes.

But informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months, leading to arrests in October 2020. Whitmer was not physically harmed.

After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed then-president Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Last August, after 19 months out of office, Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”

Associated Press