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Court action in Trump documents probe points to possible Florida case

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By Karen Freifeld and Jacqueline Thomsen

(Reuters) – U.S. courthouse activity in Miami suggests that federal prosecutors might bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump in his home state of Florida rather than in Washington.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has convened grand juries in both places to hear evidence in his investigation into whether the former president mishandled classified information after leaving the White House in January 2021.

Taylor Budowich, a former Trump spokesman, said on Wednesday he had appeared before the Miami grand jury. Media outlets have reported seeing prosecutors working on the investigation at the Florida courthouse.

Legal experts have questioned whether the charges at issue would need to be filed in Florida because the alleged crimes took place in Palm Beach at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

A spokesman for Smith’s office declined to comment. A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors have notified Trump’s attorneys that he is a target of the investigation, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Experts say the U.S. Justice Department may opt to bring a case in Florida to avoid a drawn-out legal challenge from Trump’s team over the proper venue. Under federal law, defendants have a right to be charged where the activity in question took place.

Smith could indict Trump in Florida and charge others in Washington, especially if they are cooperating and have waived the venue issue.

Bringing the case in Florida would deprive Trump’s team of the argument that prosecutors were holding the trial on politically hostile terrain. Florida voted for the Republican Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, while Washington is overwhelmingly Democratic.

But the strength of the evidence may override any concerns about the jury pool, said Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor in Washington.

“Smith and his team are assembling a pretty overwhelming case, so even with a less favorable jury pool they probably have a high level of confidence they can prove it to virtually any jury,” he said.

The choice of venue may depend on whether Trump is ultimately charged with obstruction of justice, which would point to a Florida prosecution, or a larger conspiracy that includes taking the documents from the White House, said Washington lawyer William Taylor III.

“If they define the conspiracy more broadly, there’s no question they can bring it in D.C,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)

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