Former President’s Legal Jeopardy Donald Trump Faces in two federal criminal investigations took a new turn Friday with the Justice Department appointing a special counsel.
Jack SmithA DOJ alum known for his work on international war crimes cases will lead an investigation into sensitive government documents taken to Trump’s Florida home near the end of his presidency.
Smith will also oversee aspects of the inquiry that will review efforts to prevent presidential transfers of power after 2020, including attempts to interfere with congressional ballots.
Here’s what to know about notification and inquiries:
The attorney general appointed a special counsel to investigate, and both touched on Trump. It was announced this week He is running for the White House in 2024.
Merrick Garland Announces Special Counsel to Oversee Trump Investigations
Smith will eventually report to Attorney General Merrick Garland. But as a special adviser he will operate outside the day-to-day oversight of the department’s political leadership and his interactions with Biden’s political appointees should be limited.
The independent special counsel puts some distance between the department’s political leadership — appointed by President Joe Biden — and what’s happening in the Trump-related investigations. Smith is registered as an independent, a DOJ official told reporters.
“Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in matters of particular importance,” Garland said. “It allows attorneys and agents to proceed with their work more quickly and make decisions without doubt based solely on the facts and the law.”
The designation has the practical effect of limiting what information about the investigation must be disclosed to Congress, as only details about its budget must be shared with lawmakers.
Special counsel terms allow Garland Smith to be removed. But any decision Garland makes to deny the special counsel’s request, including decisions to charge fees, must be reported to Congress.
Garland specifically pointed to Trump’s announcement earlier this week that he would run for the Republican nomination in 2024 and the signs Biden has given that he wants to run for re-election.
Department officials were considering appointing a special counsel in investigations involving the former president, CNN first reported earlier this month, as a way to protect against allegations that the investigations were politically motivated.
Garland defended the work of the DOJ officials who worked on that investigation, saying Friday that they “conducted their work in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.” But the DOJ “has long recognized that in some unusual cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel to independently manage the investigation and prosecution,” he said.
The Attorney General’s ability to bring in someone from outside the federal government to preside over a politically sensitive investigation is established in U.S. law.
In a new report, legal experts concluded there was a ‘strong basis’ to impeach Trump
The nomination order is the clearest sign that scrutiny of the two investigations has shifted to Trump-related conduct. That’s not to say that Trump will be indicted or that even his closest aides will face charges. But that means there will be more opacity surrounding that investigation and the Mar-a-Lago investigation. And those investigations work in a much longer league.
So far, the cases in the January 6, 2021 trial have focused on the US Capitol riots. But behind the scenes, there are signs that federal investigators are looking more closely at other schemes to interfere with the transition of power — including schemes involving the former president’s inner circle.
The newly appointed special counsel has served in law enforcement positions in the United States and on the global stage, Garland said, citing his reputation as an “impartial and tenacious prosecutor.”
Smith’s most recent role was as lead prosecutor for the Hague Special Tribunal for war crimes in Kosovo.
His previous assignments for the Department of Justice include a stint as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, as well as a stint as chief of the Public Integrity Unit investigating election crimes and public corruption. He also served as Principal Prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, where he was promoted to U.S. Attorney in early 2017. He served in that role for several months under the Trump administration.
Smith will have all the investigative tools a U.S. attorney can use, including subpoena power. He would provide his own budget and be able to build a staff to support his work. If he wants to bring any chargesheet, his team can also lead those cases in court. His investigative work must comply with all judicial regulations, procedures and policies.
“I will ensure that the special counsel receives the resources to conduct this work expeditiously and thoroughly,” Garland said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into Trump-Russia ties ultimately cost nearly $32 million, though that total includes Mueller’s borrowing from other parts of the Justice Department that are not under his direct control.
Trump said Friday that he “will not participate” in the investigation.
“I’ve been proven innocent for six years — from trumped-up charges to Mueller and found no complicity, and now I have to do it even more?” Trump told Fox News Digital. “That is not acceptable. It is very unfair. It’s very political. ”
He continued, “I’m not going to participate in that… I’m going to declare, and then they hire a special prosecutor.”
January 6 Garland appoints Smith to oversee parts of the study, but the scope of those parts is broader.
The appointment details his authority to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with attempts to interfere with the statutory transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or around January 6, 2021. ”
Cases involving them Physically breached the Capitol that day That would be under the U.S. Attorney’s Office in DC, Garland said.
The Mueller investigation culminated in a 400-page report that was eventually released to the public with some redactions. However, the Special Counsel is under no obligation to prepare a publicly available and detailed report. The regulations only require the special counsel to provide the attorney general with a “confidential report explaining the case or denial conclusions reached by the special counsel.”
Garland did not respond to a reporter’s question Friday about the possibility of a statement being released.
A CNN legal analyst breaks down why Garland chose Smith
No deadline has been set for the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation. If anything, as special counsel, Smith may be more insulated from political pressure to complete the investigation. Critics of the current rules for special counsel complain that the regime allows investigations to drag on as they balloon.
Smith, in a statement released by the Justice Department accompanying his announcement, insisted that his appointment would not allow him to slow down the pace of investigations: “The pace of investigations will not be suspended or flagged under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and move investigations promptly and thoroughly to whatever conclusions the facts and law dictate.
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