U.S. Justice Dept. names war crimes expert as special counsel for Trump probes

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

US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s probe into Donald Trump, including the former president’s handling of classified documents and efforts to suppress them. 2020 elections.

Garland’s announcement came three days after Trump, a Republican, announced that the 2024 will seek the presidency again. Garland said the appointment of a special counsel was necessary because of Trump’s candidacy, as well as President Biden’s bid to seek re-election.

Special counsels are sometimes appointed to investigate politically sensitive cases, and they carry out their work with some degree of independence from the leadership of the Department of Justice.

“The pace of the investigation will not be slowed down and will not go unnoticed by me,” Smith said in a statement. “I will make an independent determination and proceed with prompt and thorough investigations, whatever the outcome dictated by the facts and the law.”

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

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“It’s the right thing to do at this time to appoint a special counsel,” Garland, a Biden appointee, said at a news conference.

Trump called the appointment of the special counsel a “rigged deal.”

“This appalling abuse of power is the latest in a long line 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.

Biden did not respond to reporters’ questions about the special counsel during his only public appearance of the day. The White House was not involved in the decision to nominate Smith, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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

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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, appointed special counsel in 2017, recorded Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign contacts with Russia, but found insufficient evidence to bring charges of criminal conspiracy.

FBI agents during the August 8 The court-authorized search seized thousands of government records, some marked as highly classified. Investigators are also investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Trump filed a civil suit to delay the investigation into the documents and to keep some of the records from investigators.

The other investigation is a widely publicized investigation into a failed plot by Trump allies to nullify the 2020 presidential election. presidential election by providing fraudulent voter lists to the US National Archives and trying to prevent Congress from confirming Biden’s election victory.

A grand jury is reviewing evidence in the case, and prosecutors have issued subpoenas to top White House lawyers and close advisers to Vice President Mike Pence.


While Garland ultimately has special counsel authority, Smith’s appointment could allow Garland to create some political distance that could bolster public confidence in the integrity of the two investigations. Career prosecutors are expected to continue their investigation with Smith.

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Smith recently underwent surgery after injuring his knee in a cycling accident. He did not attend the press conference.

The criminal and civil state and federal investigations against Trump also include a civil lawsuit by the New York state attorney general accusing him and his three adult children of fraud related to the family’s real estate business.

Smith is the Justice Department’s third special counsel, since 2017. assigned to deal with a politically sensitive case. Mueller did not make a clear finding on whether Trump obstructed justice, so then-Attorney General William Barr himself ruled that there was no basis for such a charge.

in 2019 Barr appointed John Durham as special counsel to investigate the FBI’s investigation into Trump in 2016. Of Durham’s three prosecutions, two were acquitted this year.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Rami Ayub; Additional reporting by Costas Pitas, Brad Brooks, Trevor Hunnicutt, and Joseph Axo; Edited by Will Dunham, Andy Sullivan and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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