© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2024 U.S. presidential election during a ceremony at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday named Jack Smith, a former attorney general, to serve as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into Donald Trump, including the former president’s handling of sensitive documents and impeachment efforts. 2020 elections. .
Garland’s announcement came three days after Trump, a Republican, announced he would run for president again in 2024. Garland said Trump’s candidacy, as well as Democratic President Biden’s announcement that he would seek re-election, made the special counsel’s decision.
Special counsels are sometimes appointed to investigate politically motivated cases and perform their duties independently from the leadership of the Department of Justice.
“The speed of research does not stop or stop my watch,” Smith said in a statement. “I will make an independent decision and I will move the investigation forward quickly and carefully to whatever consequences the law and the law dictates.”
Smith will oversee an investigation into Trump’s handling of government documents after he left the White House last year and investigate attempts to disrupt a peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election, Garland said.
“Appointing a special counsel at this point is the right thing to do,” Garland, who was nominated by Biden, told a news conference.
Trump, in a statement on Fox News, said he would “not participate” in the special counsel’s investigation.
“The Democratic Department of ‘Justice’ had nothing but Trump haters, so they just appointed a Special Counsel to go after me more,” Trump later wrote on social media.
Trump tweeted that he would speak again on Friday from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Biden did not respond to questions from reporters about the special counsel during his public appearance that day. The White House was not involved in the decision to appoint Smith, a senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Smith, a political independent, was until recently the chief prosecutor of the special court in The Hague, which was responsible for the prosecution of Kosovo. He previously managed the integrity division of the Department of Justice and worked as a federal and state prosecutor in New York.
This is the second time in five years that the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s actions. Former FBI director Robert Mueller, who was named special counsel in 2017, documented the links between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, but found insufficient evidence to charge him with conspiracy.
FBI agents seized thousands of government documents, some of which were classified as sensitive, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in a court-authorized search on August 8. Investigators are also examining Trump for interfering with the investigation. Trump has filed criminal charges to delay the search for documents and keep some documents from investigators.
Another investigation is the investigation into the failed conspiracy of Trump’s allies to subvert the 2020 presidential election by submitting false slates of voters to the US National Archives and trying to prevent Congress from recognizing Biden’s election victory.
The grand jury is hearing testimony in the case, with prosecutors testifying against senior White House attorneys and close advisers to Vice President Mike Pence.
Stay away from politics
Although Garland has authority over the special counsel, Smith’s appointment could allow Garland to create political distance that could bolster public confidence in the integrity of the two investigations. Labor prosecutors are expected to continue the investigation along with Smith.
Smith recently underwent surgery after injuring his knee in a bicycle accident. He did not attend the press conference.
Federal and state criminal investigations against Trump include an indictment filed by the New York state attorney general accusing him and his three eldest children of real estate fraud.
Smith is the third Justice Department special counsel to be appointed since 2017 to deal with a politically sensitive case. Mueller has yet to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, prompting then-Attorney General William Barr to confirm that there are no grounds for indicting him.
In 2019, Barr appointed John Durham as special counsel to investigate the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign. Of the three charges Durham brought, two resulted in impunity this year.