U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he was appointing a special counsel, Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor Jack Smith, to take over two criminal investigations related to former president, Donald Trump – the retention of classified documents at his Mar-A-Lago estate after his presidency ended and the DOJ’s investigation of what led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A special counsel is an independent prosecutor who takes over a criminal investigation. It is speculated that the special counsel appointment signals DOJ being closer to an indictment or the end of the investigation.
Announced on Nov. 19, Garland said the appointment of a special counsel was “in the public interest,” as a result of Trump’s announcement that he was running for president again, as well as President Joe Biden indicating that he plans to run for re-election. Being that Garland is Biden’s DOJ appointee, having a special counsel to oversee these investigations would be done to prevent any accusations of the investigation being political.
Jack Smith is a career prosecutor who was the chief for the Public Integrity Unit Section at the DOJ. Smith’s career began as Assistant District Attorney in New York in 1994. He also has a long record for bringing criminal cases to trial and conviction, as reported by Politico.
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” Smith pledged in a statement.
According to CNN, prosecutors are aiming to collect more witnesses and more info for both federal investigations in the coming weeks. Ultimately, the decision about what to do with the evidence and if charges are brought forth would be made by Attorney General Garland.
The House Select Committee investigation of Jan. 6 has been a separate probe operating in tandem with the DOJ’s investigation. As the House of Representatives will be led by Republicans when the new Congress comes into power on Jan. 3, the committee’s investigation is likely to wrap up while the DOJ’s investigation will continue.
The Committee began on July 21, 2021 and has compiled an expansive amount of evidence and material over the year and a half. Their final report is expected to be released this month.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the findings could result in a criminal referral of Trump and allies to the DOJ for their role in working to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump told a crowd at Mar-A-Lago on Nov. 15 that he was announcing his candidacy for the presidency in 2024. Trump had long been expected to announce his bid for another term after losing the 2020 presidential election and claiming the election was rigged against him. In his third run for office, Trump is seeking to become only the second president since Grover Cleveland in 1892 to win a second term in office that is non-consecutive.
Trump has long maintained his innocence. During a speech on Nov. 18 at Mar-A-Lago, Trump reacted to the special counsel announcement.
“This horrendous abuse of power is the latest in a long series of witch hunts,” he said. “They want to do bad things to the greatest movement in the history of our country,” Trump continued.
On Trump’s Truth Social platform, he called Smith another “hit man” for former president Barack Obama, according to the Washington Examiner.
Trump has previously been investigated by special counsel, Robert Mueller, for collusion with Russian officials surrounding the 2016 election.
Other investigations that implicate Trump include the probe into election interference with Georgia’s Fulton County from the 2020 election, Howard University School of Law alumna and New York Attorney General Leticia James’ lawsuit against the Trump family and Trump Organization, criminal tax fraud with the Trump Organization and the DOJ’s investigation of fake GOP electors in seven states.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett