Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday named a special counsel to oversee a pair of investigations related to former President Donald Trump.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Garland said Jack Smith will serve as special counsel over the investigation into whether any person or entity interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or with the certification of Electoral College votes and the investigation into classified documents and other records seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution,” Garland said.
“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 candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.”
Smith previously served as chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, a department focused on public corruption and election crime cases. He also served as chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo.
In a statement obtained by the New York Times, Smith vowed to “conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch,” he said. “I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
The special counsel will report to Garland, who will have final say in whether to file charges, should they be deemed appropriate, The Associated Press reported.
Trump has sought to portray the investigations as politically motivated, proclaiming himself “a victim” during his 2024 campaign kickoff speech on Tuesday, according to The Hill.
“Nothing is greater than the weaponization from the system, the FBI or the DOJ,” he said, according to the news website. “We must conduct a top-to-bottom overhaul to clean out the festering rods and corruption of Washington, D.C.”
In August, authorities said they recovered thousands of documents — including about 100 bearing classification markings — during a search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. A search warrant obtained by investigators showed the seizure was part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act, and into obstruction of justice and unlawful concealment or removal of government records.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
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