Federal prosecutors have notified former United States president Donald Trump’s lawyers he is the target of an investigation into his handling of classified materials, adding to his legal troubles as he campaigns for the White House in 2024.
The Justice Department typically notifies people when they become targets of an investigation to give them an opportunity to present their own evidence before a grand jury.
The notification does not necessarily mean Mr Trump will be charged.
News of the notification to Mr Trump’s legal team surfaced just two days after his lawyers met with Justice Department officials to discuss the case.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Trump’s lawyers in the documents case could not be reached for comment.
Mr Trump’s legal team was notified on Monday, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Although there are some signs the documents investigation is drawing to a close, the timing of when a person is told they are a target cannot necessarily be used as a predictor of when charges might be brought, said David Schoen, a lawyer who represented Trump ally Steve Bannon during his criminal trial on contempt of Congress charges.
“Sometimes they are issued at the beginning of a long investigation and sometimes at the conclusion of an investigation,” he said.
Mr Trump, the front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly described the multiple investigations as politically motivated.
A federal grand jury has been investigating Mr Trump’s retention of classified materials after leaving the White House in 2021.
A second criminal investigation is looking into alleged efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
A representative for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the probes, declined to comment.
Investigators in August 2022 seized roughly 13,000 documents from Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
One hundred of these were marked as classified, even though one of Mr Trump’s lawyers had previously said all records with classified markings had been returned.
Mr Trump has defended his retention of documents, suggesting he declassified them while he was president.
Mr Trump has not provided evidence of this and his lawyers have not made that argument in court filings.
Mr Trump is the first current or former US president to face criminal charges, having pleaded not guilty in April to felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records relating to hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 presidential race.
His legal woes are growing.
A jury in federal court in Manhattan in May decided in a civil lawsuit that Mr Trump must pay $US5 million ($7.5 million) in damages for sexually abusing former Elle magazine columnist E Jean Carroll and then defaming her by branding her a liar.
Mr Trump also faces a criminal investigation by a county prosecutor in Georgia relating to his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss in that state.