AG Garland Names Jack Smith Special Counsel for Trump Probes Attorney General Merrick Garland (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Friday, 18 November 2022 02:35 PM EST
Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump's Florida estate as well as key aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.
The move, which is being announced just three days after Trump formally launched his 2024 candidacy, is a recognition of the unmistakable political implications of two investigations that involve not only a former president but also a current White House hopeful.
"Based on recent developments, including the former President's announcement that he is a candidate for President in the next election, and the sitting President's stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel," said Attorney General Garland. “Such an appointment underscores the Department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters. It also allows prosecutors and agents to continue their work expeditiously, and to make decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.
"Although the Special Counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department, he must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the Department. I will ensure that the Special Counsel receives the resources to conduct this work quickly and completely. Given the work done to date and Mr. Smith's prosecutorial experience, I am confident that this appointment will not slow the completion of these investigations.
"The men and women who are pursuing these investigations are conducting themselves in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism. I could not be prouder of them. 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. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it. Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an even-handed and urgent manner."
Special Counsel Smith has resigned as the chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo.
Though the appointment installs a new supervisor atop the probes — both of which are expected to accelerate now that the midterm elections are complete — the special counsel will still report to Garland, who has ultimate say of whether to bring charges.
Representatives for Trump, a Republican, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
There was no immediate reason provided for the decision or for its timing. Garland has spoken repeatedly of his singular focus on the facts, the evidence and the law in the Justice Department's decision-making and of his determination to restore political independence to the agency following the tumultuous years of the Trump administration.
And there does not seem to be an obvious conflict like the one that promoted the last appointment of a special counsel to handle Trump-related investigations. The Trump Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.