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DOJ assigns special counsel to Trump criminal investigations as campaign begins

President Donald Trump. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
November 18, 2022

A special counsel has been appointed to oversee two ongoing criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump just three days into his third presidential campaign.

Jack Smith, a former Justice Department prosecutor, will manage investigations into the boxes of classified documents Trump kept at Mar-A-Lago, as well as whether the presidential transfer of power was interfered with in the Jan. 6 Capitol storming, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Friday.

Special counsels are usually appointed to take investigations over when investigating agencies have a conflict of interest. During Trump’s presidency, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate his alleged links to Russia.

Garland, appointed by President Joe Biden, said “it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel” because of Trump’s candidacy and Biden’s anticipated run for a second term.

“Such an appointment underscores the [Justice] Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said, adding, “The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it. Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an even-handed and urgent manner.”

He said Smith’s appointment “allows prosecutors and agents to continue their work expeditiously, and to make decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.”

Smith has been serving till now as the chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague, where he investigated and adjudicated Kosovo war crimes cases, Garland said. 

CNN reported that Smith began his career in the mid-’90s and previously served as the acting U.S. attorney in Tennessee. He was also head of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, where he oversaw investigations into election crimes and public corruption.

In a statement, Smith said he intends “to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result 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. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” he said.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.