Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed former Justice Department public integrity chief Jack Smith to oversee the Justice Department’s criminal investigations involving former President Donald Trump.
Smith will oversee the department’s investigations into the possible mishandling of classified documents and presidential records at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate, as well as key aspects of the department’s Jan. 6 investigation.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for the presidency in the upcoming elections, and the incumbent president’s stated intention to also be a candidate, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a lawyer,” Garland told a news conference.
“Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive cases. It also enables prosecutors and officers to pursue their work with dispatch and to make unquestionably informed decisions. only by the facts and the law.”
Garland’s decision comes three days after Trump announced he would run for the White House again, and after Republicans claimed a House majority in the next Congress.
“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,” Garland said. “The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it. Mr. Smith is the right choice to address these issues impartially and urgently.”
Smith most recently served as Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Kosovo.
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He joined the Department of Justice in 1999 as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He joined the International Criminal Court in 2008, overseeing all war crimes investigations conducted by the Office of the Prosecutor, before taking over the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Office in 2010.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any resulting prosecutions, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement released after his public appointment.
“The pace of investigations will not stop or falter under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and move investigations forward quickly and thoroughly, whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”