The new special counsel running two federal criminal investigations that touch former President Donald Trump is getting right to it.
Jack Smith, the former official at the Justice Department who was brought back in by Attorney General Garland to serve as the special counsel, wrote a brief letter to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week — dated on Thanksgiving — undercutting a key portion of the Trump team’s arguments in favor of a court-appointed third party expert known as a special master continuing its work.
The special master is conducting a review of unclassified items seized from a southern Florida Trump property in connection to the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the handling of classified documents from Donald’s administration, and the Justice Department wants the entire review shut down. Other avenues for dealing with concerns about privilege and the classification status of individual docs have already been available, and the unclassified materials still subject to the time-consuming special master review could be critical for finding context clues regarding the handling of the classified items, including timing (from the date on anything present), who else might have accessed the materials (from the content of the unclassified items), or another related factor. In Smith’s letter, he points out that a case the Trump team cited in favor of a special master doesn’t actually support their position. Among other issues, the government itself proposed the special master review in the earlier matter, which evidently involved Rudy Giuliani.
“As plaintiff recognizes, the court did not “enjoin the government,” id.; instead, the government itself volunteered that approach. Moreover, the records there were seized from an attorney’s office, the review was conducted on a rolling basis, and the case did not involve a separate civil proceeding invoking a district court’s anomalous jurisdiction,” the special counsel wrote to court, discussing the earlier special counsel review. “None of those is true here.” In recent days, the Justice Department formally notified the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Smith’s new role, in which he will also be leading investigations into conspiracies around and involving Trump to essentially undo the outcome after the last presidential election. Oral arguments in the dispute before the 11th Circuit over the continuance of the special master’s review were held earlier this week (on Tuesday), and reports suggested the court might be gearing up to shut down the process. The same court already limited it, removing classified documents from its purview, which let the underlying criminal probe move forward.