Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel during a press conference. Smith is a former war crimes prosecutor.
He’ll oversee inquiries into Mr. Trump’s handling of secret information and his alleged involvement in the disturbance at the Capitol.
Mr. Trump, who is under investigation for multiple other things, says he did nothing wrong.
Mr. Smith will eventually determine whether the former Republican president, who only three days ago declared his nomination for president in 2024, will be charged with a crime.
“In certain extraordinary cases it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution,” Mr. Garland claimed on Friday.
“Due to recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate in the next election, and the sitting president’s intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest.”
He claimed that the action would increase public trust in the probe.
Mr. Trump denounced the “horrendous abuse of power” by a “corrupt and highly politicised” department of justice in a report issued on Friday night from his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.
Mr. Smith, who formerly worked as a prosecutor in New York, most recently held the position of the head prosecutor at The Hague, where he looked into war crimes in Kosovo.
According to Mr. Garland, he would immediately start working once returning to the US. The justice department stated that Mr. Smith was a registered political independent to allay accusations of political bias.
This administration is painfully aware that these cases have the utmost political implications, as evidenced by Merrick Garland’s decision to name a special prosecutor.
Despite any guarantees of impartiality, the majority of the people would perceive an attempt by Joe Biden’s justice department to charge a candidate who might compete against him in the 2024 general election as suspicious.
The Biden administration will at least have some protection from these accusations by turning this over to a special counsel and giving him or her the freedom to act as they see right.
Additionally, it shows that the justice department thinks there is enough evidence to charge Mr. Trump, as a case without substance might have been dropped with no further action taken.
Just days after he announced his third presidential campaign, Mr. Trump and his closest aides take all of this seriously.
As with Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry and other special counsel inquiries throughout the administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, these inquiries frequently take on a life of their own and uncover fresh prosecutorial grounds to cover.
It will be challenging to foresee the whirlwind’s final course that Mr. Garland has set in motion.
In a statement issued soon after being appointed, Mr. Smith stated, “I intend to conduct the assigned investigations and any prosecutions that may follow from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch,” he continued. “I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
In August, FBI agents investigated Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, the location of his Tuesday night announcement of his candidacy. They have taken top-secret records, and they are looking into whether he may have breached the law by keeping them after leaving the White House.
Additionally, the justice department is conducting a second criminal investigation into the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, as well as wider attempts to rig the 2020 presidential election. However, this inquiry is mainly under wraps.
In the meantime, a congressional committee is looking into the incident in which Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington to prevent the declaration of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The committee has made hints that it would propose to the justice department that Mr. Trump be charged with a crime for his alleged involvement in the disturbance.