WASHINGTON – Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former federal and international prosecutor as special counsel Friday to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump.
Jack Smith, who led the Justice Department’s corruption investigation and since 2018 was the prosecutor in The Hague to investigate the war crimes in Kosovo, will be the third special counsel in five years to investigate matters related to Mr. Trump.
He has led the investigation into the handling of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and is overseeing key aspects of the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse his 2020 election campaign.
“The Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal charges arising from the investigation of this matter,” Mr. Garland said in a brief that named Mr. Smith for the position.
The memo said Smith’s impeachment does not include charges against those who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol with Trump supporters trying to overturn his loss and keep him in office. Prosecutors have already charged more than 900 alleged perpetrators of violence so far, nearly half of whom have pleaded guilty.
The appointment comes three days after Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency.
“Based on recent events, including the former president’s announcement that he will run for president in the next election, and the president’s intention to run, I have determined that it is in the best interest of the people to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said in a speech on Friday. “This appointment will not delay the completion of this investigation.”
“Here we go again!” Trump said on his Truth Social platform, adding that he thinks the investigation of January 6, 2021 is a “dead issue” and that he also “considers that the fake document … was dead, or dying fast. The Democrat Department of ‘Justice’ had nothing, except for the Trump haters, so they just appointed a Special Counsel to come after me. Shameful!”
The press secretary at the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, said the president was not informed in advance of Mr. Garland choosing special counsel. “The Department of Justice makes its own investigative decisions,” he said.
Mr. Smith, who was still in The Hague on Friday, is expected to take up his new role immediately, the Justice Department said. In a statement issued by the department, Mr. Smith said he would conduct the investigation independently. “The speed of the investigation does not stop or stop my watch,” he said.
The appointment of Mr. Smith, a political independent, shows Mr. Garland’s interest in overseeing any investigation into Mr. Trump now that he has declared himself president. President Biden, who has said he wants to seek re-election in 2024, nominated Garland to lead the Justice Department in part on the former judge’s pledge to rid the agency of politicization. Mr. Trump as president has repeatedly said that the attorney general owes the president credibility and should send the Department of Justice to destroy his political enemies.
Some legal experts expect such an appointment. The special counsel’s rules allow the attorney general to appoint an outsider if he feels the investigation or the prosecution reflects the department’s ambivalence and the denial of other officials would not be enough to allay those concerns. The special counsel’s investigation may proceed to the next jurisdiction.
Some former Justice Department officials and prosecutors have said that such an appointment would do little to end criticism of the FBI and Justice Department by Trump and his supporters. Others said the appointment sets an unnecessary precedent for appointing outsiders to high-profile investigations and sends a message that the Justice Department cannot be trusted to make political decisions.
“The attorney general has had a difficult time,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was criticized by his fellow Republicans in 2017, after appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion between this. efforts by the Trump campaign. He also said that Mr. Garland “changed new principles by appointing a special counsel to investigate a person who is against the authority that is in office and not cooperating with them.”
The appointment of the special counsel will not end the appearance of controversy, as Mr. Garland and other Justice Department officials must still participate in decision-making related to the investigation, according to people familiar with the former special counsel. .
The state’s attorney general said he would make sure Smith gets what he needs to do his job as quickly as possible. The special counsel has the authority to hire additional staff, but prosecutors are expected to continue their work.
The complexity of the investigation of the former president and the president-elect is expected to be highlighted by the new special counsel, considering the bad history of the last two elections.
Mr. Mueller, whose office in 2019 revealed that Russia was engaged in a two-pronged conspiracy to assassinate and hack computers against Democrats, found repeated contacts between Russian-linked organizations and Trump campaign advisers at the same time, but did not establish anything. conspiracy between the two.
He has repeatedly resisted Mr. Trump’s efforts to limit or shut down his investigation and prosecuted several of Trump’s top advisers for lying to investigators or other financial crimes, as Mr. Trump has for months accused Mr. “witchcraft” fueled by false evidence. Trump pardoned these aides in his final days in office. Attorney General William Barr later concluded that the special counsel’s evidence was insufficient to prove Trump’s guilt.
Mr. Barr appointed a special counsel, John Durham, to investigate the sources of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Two of Durham’s cases ended in acquittals, including last month. He is expected to issue a final report in the coming weeks but his advice as special counsel is still ongoing, marking the first time in Justice Department history that two special counsels have been on the job.
After a months-long standoff between Trump’s team and officials from the National Archives and Justice Department, the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home in August and seized boxes of government records that contained nearly 100 documents, including what it means. to be seen in special public places.
In the months that followed, Justice Department investigators pushed to speak with several of Mr. because of his actions.
Prosecutors say they are investigating the mishandling of classified information and government records and whether anyone tried to obstruct the investigation.
The Department of Justice has also issued several subpoenas to people associated with Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 presidential election, including sending false letters of election from several congressional districts, and in preparation for a pre-trial hearing on January 6 at the Capitol, according to and people who know the subject well. Prosecutors are reviewing the actions of a former Justice Department official who worked to help Trump reverse his losses, the Wall Street Journal previously reported.
Trump has maintained that he has done nothing wrong and will continue to accuse the Justice Department and the House Select Committee that is investigating on January 6 of a witch hunt.
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