US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed former federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel in two ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump.
Smith’s appointment 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 who will recommend whether criminal charges should be filed against the ex-president.
The attorney general himself was appointed by Biden, a Democrat who defeated Trump in his re-election in 2020. Biden could run against Trump again in the 2024 election, although the president has not yet made a final decision on whether to run.
The first investigation, which Smith will begin immediately, will look into whether any person, including Trump, unlawfully interfered with the transfer of presidential power following the 2020 election or the confirmation of the Electoral College vote in favor of President Joe Biden on Jan. 6 Has. 2021
That day, a mob of Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol and disrupted the Electoral College’s certification.
The other DOJ investigation that Smith will oversee will focus on whether Trump violated the… broke the law and obstructed justice. Florida.
“Mr. Smith is the right choice to conclude these matters in an impartial and urgent matter,” Garland said.
Prosecutor Jack Smith (R) looks on as he awaits the start of the first trial of Salih Mustafa, former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), at the Kosovo Special Chambers Court in The Hague September 15, 2021.
Robin Van Lonkhuijsen | AFP | Getty Images
Smith is not responsible for criminal cases and investigations of anyone who was physically present at the Capitol during the January 6 riots. The US Attorney for the District of Columbia will continue to pursue these cases.
In addition to his previous career as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice, Smith most recently served as Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court in The Hague, Netherlands. In that post, which he gave up to take up the post of Special Counsel, he investigated war crimes in Kosovo.
Smith has also served at the International Criminal Court overseeing war crimes investigations, as chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division, as chief prosecutor at a United States Attorney’s Office in Tennessee, and as prosecutor at the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York. He began his career as a prosecutor in the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.
Garland announced the appointment during a public statement from the DOJ.
“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain exceptional cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently direct an investigation and prosecution,” Garland said.
“Based on recent developments, including the former President’s announcement that he will stand as a candidate for President in the next elections 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” that the appointment “will not slow down the completion of this investigation.”
“I will ensure that the Special Counsel has the resources to complete this work quickly and fully,” Garland said.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland announces his appointment of Jack Smith as Special Counsel investigating the actions of former President Donald Trump in the briefing room of the US Department of Justice on November 18, 2022 in Washington.
Evelyn Hockstein Reuters
A Trump campaign spokesman said in a statement, “This is a fully expected political stunt by a helpless, politicized, armed Biden Justice Department.”
Trump himself later told FoxNews.com, I’ve been going through this for six years — I’ve been going through this for six years, and I’m not going to go through it anymore.
“And I hope Republicans have the courage to fight it.”
“I’ve been proven innocent for six years of everything from fake impeachments to Mueller not colluding, and now I have to do it more?” Trump said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s so unfair. It’s so political.”
Smith said in his own statement, “I intend to conduct the assigned investigation and any resulting prosecution independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
“The pace of the investigation will not continue or slow down under my supervision,” Smith said. “I will render independent judgment and pursue the investigation expeditiously and thoroughly to achieve the outcome that the facts and the law dictate.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump applauds as he announces his re-election campaign for president in the 2024 U.S. presidential election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida November 15, 2022 – will run for President.
Jonathan Ernest | Reuters
A White House official told NBC News on Friday, “The DOJ makes decisions about its criminal investigation independently, and we are not involved, so I would refer you to the DOJ if you have any questions about this.”
Barbara McQuade, a legal analyst with NBC News and a former federal prosecutor, opposed the idea of appointing a special counsel in the Trump investigation in a Time magazine article Thursday, saying it could potentially delay prosecutions long enough that he would avoid being held accountable for possible crimes.
“Another practical consideration against appointing a special counsel is time,” McQuade wrote.
“The appointment of a new attorney to take over the investigation will cause delays. A new attorney would have to hire their own staff, all of whom need time to get up to speed,” she wrote.
“If Trump is trying to win back the Oval Office, the DOJ must complete not only the investigation but also the processes before January 20, 2025. Then a newly sworn President Trump could take the ultimate act of siding with law enforcement — and pardon himself.”