Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints Jack Smith as special counsel in Trump’s criminal investigations


U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday named former federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel for two pending criminal investigations by the Justice Department of former President Donald Trump.

Smith’s nomination came three days after Trump, a Republican, announced plans to run for president in 2024.

Trump’s move led directly to Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel to advise whether criminal charges should be brought against the ex-president.

The attorney general himself was appointed by Biden, a Democrat who defeated Trump in his 2020 re-election bid. Biden could run against Trump again in the 2024 election, though the president has not yet made a final decision on whether to run for office.

The first investigation Smith will begin immediately is to investigate whether anyone, including Trump, unlawfully interfered with the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election, or the certification of the Electoral College vote in favor of President Joe Biden on January 6. 2021.

That day, a mob of Trump supporters raided the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the certification of the Electoral College vote.

The other DOJ investigation Smith will oversee focuses on whether Trump broke the law and obstructed justice in connection with his removal of hundreds of documents from the White House, which were sent to his residence in the Mar-a- Lago club in Palm Beach. Florida.

“Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an impartial and expeditious manner,” Garland said.

Prosecutor Jack Smith (R), watches as he awaits the start of Salih Mustafa, former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), first trial at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers Court in The Hague, September 15, 2021.

Robin Van Lonkhuijsen | AFP | Getty Images

Smith is not responsible for criminal cases and investigations of individuals who were physically present at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will continue to prosecute these cases.

In addition to his previous position as DOJ Public Prosecutor, Smith was most recently Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague, Netherlands. In that position, which he resigned to take up the post of special counsel, he investigated war crimes in Kosovo.

Smith also served on the International Criminal Court, where he oversaw war crimes investigations, as Chief of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Division, as a Senior Prosecutor in an office of the United States Attorney in Tennessee, as a Prosecutor in the Office of the United States Attorney in Brooklyn, New York. He began his career as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Garland revealed the appointment during a DOJ public statement.

“The Justice Department has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently conduct an investigation and prosecution,” said Garland.

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is running for president in the next election and the incumbent president’s stated intention to also run, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.” Garland said.

The attorney general said he was “confident” the appointment “will not delay the conclusion of these investigations”.

“I will make sure that special counsel is given the resources to do this work quickly and completely,” Garland said.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces his appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel for the investigations into the actions of former President Donald Trump, at the U.S. Justice Department briefing room in Washington, Nov. 18, 2022.

Evelien Hockstein | Reuters

A Trump campaign spokesman said in a statement, “This is a totally expected political stunt from a wimpy, politicized, gun-toting Biden Department of Justice.”

Trump himself later told, “I’ve been going through this for six years — six years I’m going through this and I’m not going through it again.”

“And I hope the Republicans have the courage to fight this,” he said.

“I was found innocent of everything for six years – from false impeachments to Mueller finding no conspiracy, and now I have to do it more?” said Trump. “It’s unacceptable. It’s so unfair. It’s so political.”

Smith said in his own statement: “I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Justice Department.”

“The pace of investigations will not stop or slow down under my watch,” Smith said. “I will make an independent judgment and proceed with the investigations expeditiously and thoroughly, regardless of the outcome that the facts and the law dictate.”

Former US President Donald Trump claps as he announces he will run again in the 2024 US presidential election at an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Nov. 15, 2022.

Jonathan Ernest | Reuters

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later told reporters, “We were not given advance notice” of Smith’s nomination.

Barbara McQuade, a legal analyst for NBC News and a former federal prosecutor, argued in a Time magazine article Thursday against the idea of ​​appointing special counsel in the Trump investigations, saying it might prolong the prosecution as long as possible. could delay him from being held accountable. for possible crimes.

“Practical consideration also argues against appointing a special counsel: time,” McQuade wrote.

“Appointing a new lawyer to take over the investigation will cause delays. A new lawyer would have to hire his own staff, all of whom need time to get started,” she wrote.

“If Trump tries to get the Oval Office back, then DOJ must complete not only the investigations, but also the trials before January 20, 2025. That is when a newly sworn-in President Trump can take the ultimate act of prosecuting bias — and pardon herself.”

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