DOJ appoints special counsel Jack Smith to oversee Trump criminal investigations : NPR
Attorney General Merrick Garland named Justice Department elder head of public integrity Jack Smith Friday at overseeing Justice Department criminal investigations involving former President Donald Trump.
Smith will oversee the department’s investigations into the possible mishandling of classified documents and presidential records at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate, as well as key aspects of the department’s Jan. 6 investigation.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for the presidency in the upcoming elections, and the incumbent president’s stated intention to also be a candidate, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a lawyer,” Garland told a news conference.
“Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive cases. It also enables prosecutors and officers to pursue their work with dispatch and to make unquestionably informed decisions. only by the facts and the law.”
Garland’s decision comes three days after Trump announced he would run again for the white houseand after Republicans claim a majority in the House in the next Congress.
“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity. And I also believe that appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do,” Garland said. “The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it. Mr. Smith is the right choice to address these issues impartially and urgently.”
Smith’s career as a prosecutor
Smith most recently served as Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Kosovo.
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He joined the Department of Justice in 1999 as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He moved to the International Criminal Court in 2008, overseeing all war crimes investigations conducted by the Office of the Prosecutor, before taking over the Public Integrity Office of the Ministry of Justice in 2010.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any resulting prosecutions, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said. in a report released after being publicly named.
“The pace of investigations will not stop or falter under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and move investigations forward quickly and thoroughly, whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
Trump opposes further investigations
Trump addressed the appointment of a special counsel during an event Friday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He called the investigation a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”, reminiscent of language he used in previous investigations, including his two impeachment proceedings.
He also went through various topics of the day, including naming figures in the Biden administration without announcing any specific actions or planned responses he has at the special counsel.
During Trump’s presidency, Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.
Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, and Trump himself was not charged. But Mueller has indicted more than 30 people and three companies.
He secured convictions or obtained guilty pleas from eight Trump associates, including former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort as well as longtime informal Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Later, Trump’s last attorney general, William Barr, appointed John Durham’s special counsel to investigate possible wrongdoing by the FBI and others in the Russia investigation.
Durham lost the only two cases it took to court. He secured a guilty plea from a low-level FBI attorney who admitted altering an email used to obtain surveillance warrants against a former Trump campaign adviser.