Merrick Garland Reveals Special Counsel For Trump Investigations

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Attorney General Merrick Garland has selected John L. Smith (also known as Jack Smith) as a special counsel to handle investigations involving former President Donald Trump, including the probe into his handling of documents from his administration that were identified as classified and the mutli-faceted inquiry into developments after the 2020 presidential election.

The latter category presumably doesn’t include the individual criminal cases against rioters who participated in the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, but it likely does include an inquiry into issues including efforts by Trump allies after the last election to assemble essentially faked electoral votes on the former president’s behalf in swing states Biden won. The department is already in the thick of its classified documents investigation, including with an ongoing push to end the review by a court-appointed third party known as a special master of items seized by the FBI in the early August raid of the former president’s southern Florida resort known as Mar-a-Lago. Criminal charges could at some point emerge in connection to either arm of the federal investigative efforts Smith will now be handling.

Smith is a former official in the Justice Department, and Garland discussed his selection at a news conference this week, where he tied the decision to the recent announcement by the former president that he would be running for president again in the 2024 elections. Selecting a special counsel is supposed to help with tamping down even the appearance of political considerations affecting the department’s decision-making about Trump, although Garland and Smith will no doubt continue to face intensive scrutiny from Trump allies in the GOP anyway. The soon-to-be Republican majority in the U.S. House will no doubt give investigators some metaphorical headaches. Appointing a special counsel will also help with the longevity of the investigations, however, ensuring they persist beyond at least certain partisan meddling.

“While special counsels can be fired from their positions, the process is much more arduous than removing ordinary prosecutors from a case,” The New York Times noted. “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 it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland himself said, addressing the issue of independence. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.”