Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Jack Smith to serve as special counsel to handle the various federal criminal investigations involving former President Donald Trump.
The attorney general made a formal announcement Friday afternoon, three days after Trump announced he will run for president in 2024.
Smith will focus on the Justice Department’s historically unprecedented investigations into the events surrounding Jan. 6 and the 2020 election, as well as the Mar-a-Lago classified records case.
It’s been reported that Trump timed his 2024 announcement so soon after the midterms to make a potential indictment from the DOJ look like a political attack. Garland cited Trump’s revived presidential run as reason to take this next step. “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,” he said in a news conference on Friday afternoon.
Jack Smith, a former Justice Department prosecutor and former chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague, will oversee the ongoing investigations into whether “any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power” after the 2020 election and whether holding classified documents and other presidential records at Mar-a-Lago violated federal law, Garland said. Smith will also look into the “possible obstruction” of the classified documents investigation.
The latter investigation centers on Trump hoarding records at his Mar-a-Lago resort that should’ve been handed over to the National Archives post-presidency. That probe burst dramatically out in the open when the FBI raided his Florida resort earlier this year, seizing 11 sets of classified documents.
The other investigation Smith will oversee is the DOJ’s ongoing criminal probe into Trump’s role in the events surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
“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,” Garland said. He also stated that he believes that appointing a special counsel right now is the “right thing to do,” and that the “extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.”
Smith has worked as a career prosecutor since 1994, when he served as an assistant district attorney with the New York County district attorney’s office. Five years later, he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where he prosecuted cases “ranging from gang murders of police officers to civil rights violations,” Garland said. He moved onto the International Criminal Court in 2008, where he supervised war crimes investigations before returning to the Justice Department to lead over 30 prosecutors on public corruption and election crime cases in 2010. In 2015, he moved to Tennessee to serve as a first assistant U.S. attorney, later becoming the acting United States Attorney. Recently he investigated and adjudicated war crimes in Kosovo as a chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague, until he resigned to take up this post as special counsel.
He then took a moment to thank attorneys in the Justice Department for their work up to this point. “I could not be prouder of them,” he said.
Soon after the announcement, Smith issued a statement saying that he intends to conduct the investigations “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 [judgment] and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
Trump made an appearance on Fox News Digital soon after the announcement to attack the appointment. “I have been going through this for six years—for six years I have been going through this, and I am not going to go through it anymore,” he said. “And I hope the Republicans have the courage to fight this.”
Read Garland’s full order below: