What We Know About the New Special Counsel for the DoJ’s Trump Probes

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that he has appointed a special counsel, veteran prosecutor Jack Smith, to oversee the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigations into Donald Trump now that the former president has announced he is running in 2024.

Garland’s Announcement

During an afternoon press conference on Friday, Garland cited Trump’s launch of his 2024 campaign and Joe Biden’s intent to run for reelection as the impetus behind the move.

“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,” he said.

Prosecutor Jack Smith at the Hague in 2021. Photo: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP via Getty Images

Who is Jack Smith?

Garland has selected Jack Smith, a veteran prosecutor, to serve as special prosecutor. Smith has had a long career in the legal world, starting as an assistant district attorney with the New York County DA’s office in 1994 and later serving nine years as assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He supervised war-crime investigations for two years at the International Criminal Court and previously served as the chief of the Justice Department’s public-integrity section, where he led a team investigating election crimes and corruption cases.

Smith will be starting the new role immediately, traveling back to the United States from the Netherlands where he’s been serving as chief prosecutor of the special court at the Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo. Garland said that Smith will be leading the Justice Department’s investigations concerning potential interference in the transfer of power and the certification of electoral votes on January 6, 2021, and the classified documents found at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. In that role, Smith has the authority to file federal charges in connection to those inquiries.

Politico notes that Smith has handled investigations into similar crimes in the past:

During his stint at the Public Integrity Section, Smith oversaw the prosecutions of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted in 2015 of disclosing national defense information and obstructing justice — two potential crimes at the center of the Trump documents probe. Smith also oversaw the convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican, both for bribery and extortion charges. McDonnell’s conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

“Throughout his career, Jack Smith has built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor who leads teams with energy and focus to follow the facts wherever they lead,” Garland said.  “As special counsel, he will exercise independent prosecutorial judgment to decide whether charges should be brought.”

Trump’s response

“I am not going to partake in it,” the former president said Friday when Fox News Digital asked him about the special counsel investigation. Trump also, as he has in the past, proclaimed that he had done nothing wrong and decried the DoJ investigations as politically motivated.

This post has been updated.

What We Know About Trump Probe Special Counsel Jack Smith