December 2, 2022

US Justice Department names war crimes expert as special counsel for Trump probe

  • Trump calls special counsel appointment ‘abuse of power’
  • Special Counsel Smith has focused on war crimes in Kosovo

Washington, Nov 18- US Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed war crimes lawyer Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigations into Donald Trump. 2020 election.

Garland’s announcement came three days after Republican Trump announced he would seek re-election in 2024. Garland said Trump’s candidacy and Democratic President Biden’s intention to run for re-election necessitated the appointment of a special counsel.

Special counsels are sometimes appointed to investigate politically sensitive cases, and they carry out their work independently of the leadership of the judiciary.

“The pace of investigations will not pause or flag under my watch,” Smith said in a statement. “I will exercise independent judgment and move investigations expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever conclusions the facts and law dictate.”

Smith will oversee the investigation into Trump’s handling of government documents after leaving the White House last year and efforts to interfere with a peaceful transition of power following the 2020 election, Garland said.

“Appointing a special counsel is the right thing to do at this time,” Garland, who was appointed by Biden, told a news conference.

Trump called the special counsel appointment a “bad deal.”

“This appalling abuse of power is the latest in a long series of witch hunts that began a long time ago,” he told a crowd of supporters at a black-tie event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

During his only public appearance of the day, Biden did not respond to questions fired by reporters about the special counsel. The White House was not involved in the decision to appoint Smith, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Smith, a political independent, until recently served as chief prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague, tasked with investigating war crimes in Kosovo. He previously oversaw the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division and served as a federal and state prosecutor in New York.

This is the second time in five years that the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s conduct. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was named a special counsel in 2017, documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, but found insufficient evidence to bring criminal conspiracy charges.

During a court-authorized Aug. 8 search, FBI agents seized thousands of government records, some marked highly classified, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Investigators are probing Trump for obstruction of justice. Trump filed a civil lawsuit to delay the documents probe and keep some records from investigators.

The other investigation is a detailed investigation into the failed plot by Trump’s allies to subvert the 2020 presidential election by submitting fake voter registration plates to the U.S. National Archives and trying to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.

A grand jury is hearing testimony in that case, with prosecutors issuing subpoenas for testimony from former White House lawyers and close advisers to Vice President Mike Pence.

Political distance

Although Garland ultimately has authority over the special counsel, Smith’s appointment may allow Garland to create some political distance, which could increase public confidence in the integrity of the two investigations. Industry attorneys are expected to continue working with Smith on the investigation.

Smith recently underwent surgery for a knee injury sustained in a bike accident. He did not attend the press conference.

A raft of criminal and civil state and federal investigations against Trump include a civil suit by New York state’s attorney general accusing him and his three adult children of defrauding the family real estate business.

Smith is the third special counsel the Justice Department has appointed to handle the politically sensitive case since 2017. Mueller apparently did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, prompting then-Attorney General William Barr to make his own determination that there was no basis for such a charge.

In 2019, Barr appointed John Durham as special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. Two of the three criminal cases brought by Durham were acquitted this year.

Sarah N. Report by Lynch and Rami Ayub; Additional reporting by Kostas Pitas, Brad Brooks, Trevor Hunnicutt and Joseph Ax; Editing by Will Dunham, Andy Sullivan and Daniel Wallis

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