Jack Smith Named Special Counsel to Lead DOJ Probes of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former federal and international war crimes prosecutor as special counsel on Friday to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump.

Jack Smith, who once led the Department of Justice unit that investigated public corruption and since 2018 was the chief prosecutor in The Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo, will be the third special counsel in five years investigating issues involving Mr. Trump.

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He will lead both investigations into the handling of classified documents at the Mar-a-Lago resort Mr. Trump in Florida and overseeing key aspects of the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.

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“The Special Counsel was authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of this case,” said Mr. Garland in a brief memo named Mr. Smith to the post.

The memo states that Mr. Smith does not include cases against people who were physically present at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn his defeat and keep him in power. Prosecutors have charged more than 900 suspected rioters so far, about half of whom have pleaded guilty.

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The appointment comes three days after Mr. Trump announced another bid for the presidency.

Jack Smith previously headed the Department of Justice unit that investigates public corruption.


Photo:

US Department of Justice

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he will be a presidential candidate in the next election, and the sitting president declaring his intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special adviser. , “said Mr. Garland in Friday speech. “This promise will not delay the completion of this investigation.”

“Here we go again!” mr. Trump said on his Truth Social platform, adding that he thinks that January 6, 2021, the investigation is a “dead issue” and “also feels that the document hoax case … is dead, or at least dead fast. The Democrat Department of ‘Justice’ has nothing , except Trump haters, so they just appointed a Special Prosecutor to go after me next. Insulting!”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president was not given advance notice of Mr. Garland to appoint special counsel. “The Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigations independently,” he said.

Mr. Smith, who is still in The Hague on Friday, is expected to take up his new position immediately, said the Department of Justice. In a statement provided by the department, Mr. Smith said he would conduct an independent investigation. “The pace of the investigation will not pause or flag on my watch,” he said.

The appointment of Mr. Smith, an independent politician, reflects the sensitivity of Mr. Garland overseeing all investigations to Mr. Trump now that he is a declared presidential candidate. President Biden, who has said he plans to run for re-election in 2024, nominated Mr. Mr. Trump as President has repeatedly stated that the Attorney General owes the president’s personal loyalty and must deploy the Department of Justice against his political enemies.

Some lawyers have anticipated such an appointment. Regulations governing special counsel provide for the attorney general to name an outsider if he determines that an investigation or prosecution indicates a conflict of interest for office and the resignation of certain officials will not be sufficient to address the issue. Special counsel investigations may continue into the next administration.

Several former Justice Department officials and prosecutors said such an appointment would not do much to quell criticism of the FBI and the Justice Department by Mr. Trump and his supporters. Others said the appointment set an unnecessary precedent for appointing outsiders to high-profile investigations and sent a message that the Justice Department could not be trusted to make decisions on politically sensitive matters.

“The Attorney General is facing a difficult situation,” said former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who faced fierce criticism from fellow Republicans in 2017, after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and its connections. efforts and the Trump campaign. He said Mr. Garland “breaks new ground by appointing special counsel to investigate someone who is an opponent of the incumbent administration rather than an ally”.

The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol voted in mid-October to issue a subpoena for relevant documents and testimony under oath from former President Donald Trump. Photo: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

The appointment of special counsel will not completely eliminate the appearance of conflict, because Mr. Garland and other senior Justice Department officials are still likely to be involved in some decisions related to the investigation, according to people familiar with the special counsel’s past. .

The attorney general said he will confirm Mr. Smith got the resources to do his work quickly. The special counsel has the authority to hire additional staff, but career prosecutors are expected to continue their work.

The complicated nature of investigating former presidents and presidential candidates is expected to be on full display with the new special counsel, given the messy history of the last two appointments.

mr. Mueller, whose office in 2019 described Russia as being involved in a two-pronged attack of disinformation and computer hacking directed at Democrats, found repeated contacts between Russian-linked entities and Trump campaign advisers at the same time, but did not specify any . conspiracy between the two.

He detailed repeated attempts by Mr. Trump to limit or close his investigation and prosecuted several senior advisers to Mr. “witchhunt” instigated by bad evidence. Mr. Trump pardoned aides in his final days in office. Then-Attorney General William Barr determined that our special counsel’s evidence was sufficient to establish Mr. Trump committed a crime.

Barr appointed another special counsel, John Durham, to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Two of Mr. Durham’s criminal trials ended in acquittals, including one last month. He is expected to issue a final report in the coming weeks but his position as special counsel remains active, marking the first possible time in Justice Department history when two special counsels are on the job.

After a month of war between Mr. Trump and federal officials with the National Archives and Department of Justice, FBI agents searched the home of Mr. Trump in Florida in August and seized boxes of government records that included about 100 documents marked classified, including those in question. can only be seen in special government facilities.

In the past month, Justice Department investigators have encouraged speaking to several of Mr. Trump, granted at least one immunity in order to testify and sent to others who have managed several boxes of issues that they believe he provided misleading. account of his actions.

Prosecutors have said they are investigating both the mishandling of classified information and government records and whether someone tried to obstruct the investigation.

The Justice Department has also issued dozens of subpoenas to people associated with Mr. Trump to subvert the 2020 presidential election, including by sending fake elections from several warring states to Congress, and by planning a rally that preceded the January 6 attacks. on Capitol, according to people familiar with the matter. The prosecutor also investigated the actions of former officials of the Department of Justice who worked to help Mr. Trump reversed his loss, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Mr. Trump has said that he did nothing wrong and has continued to accuse the Department of Justice and the House of Representatives select committee to investigate January 6. involved in the hunt for partisan witches.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at [email protected] and Sadie Gurman at [email protected]

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