Merrick Garland appoints special counsel for Trump criminal investigations

File Photo: UPI

Nov. 18 (UPI) — Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel Friday to decide whether to criminally charge former President Donald Trump in relation to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the Mar-a-Lago classified documents investigation.

Garland said it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.

Jack Smith, former vice president of litigation for Hospital Corp. of America and most recently chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, will oversee the two criminal investigations.

Smith began his prosecutorial career in 1994 in the New York County District Attorney’s office. He then became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where he worked for nine years, handling everything from organized crime to civil rights cases, according to a Justice Department biography.

The Justice Department said in a statement the investigations will determine “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about Jan. 6, 2021, and the ongoing investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records.”

Garland said Smith will begin his work immediately.

“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 at a brief news conference.

“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.”

Smith has resigned as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, which is charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo. He will return to the United States immediately to begin his special counsel work, Garland said.

“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 in a live streamed announcement from the Justice Department.

“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,” Garland said.

He said the special counsel will not take over investigations in the District of Colombia, which will continue under the U.S. attorney there.

The appointment of a special counsel occurred just two days after Trump declared his intention to run again for president in 2024.

Trump faces multiple investigations into possible criminal activity.

His company, the Trump Organization, is on trial in New York City for alleged tax fraud. Former CFO Allen Weisselberg has pleaded guilty to a role in that fraud and is cooperating with prosecutors.


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