In light of Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he intends to mount a third presidential campaign to make America great yet again, Attorney General Merrick Garland has named former Justice Department lawyer Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate the former president and his many, many crimes.
Smith, a former prosecutor at the special court in The Hague for war crimes in Kosovo who once headed the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, has conducted multiple high-profile public corruption cases, including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi for bribery and extortion.
In a hastily convened press conference, the AG vested Smith with authority over the two ongoing investigations of Donald Trump. Henceforward the sprawling queries into Trump’s involvement in the plot to use fake electors to obstruct certification of President Biden’s victory, as well as the more targeted inquiry into the theft of government documents, will be under the supervision of an independent attorney.
“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,” Garland said. “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.”
The AG went on to promise that Smith’s appointment would not delay the progress of the ongoing queries.
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.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations and any prosecutions that may result from them independently and in the best traditions of the DOJ. The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch,” Smith said in a statement released after the DOJ’s announcement. “I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigation forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the law dictates.”
And in probably not other news, ABC’s Ali Dukakis reports that there are three brand new grand juries in DC ready and willing to devote their attention to anything a prosecutor might be about to throw their way.
Tired: Mueller is coming. Wired: Hope this Smith guy knows what he’s doing and doesn’t pull a Durham.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.