November 29, 2022

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US Justice Department appoints war crimes expert as special counsel for Health & Fitness Journal Trump investigation

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©Health & Fitness Journal. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he will run for office again in the 2024 U.S. presidential election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 15, 2022 – will run for President. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Sarah N Lynch

WASHINGTON (Health & Fitness Journal) – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor, as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into Donald Trump, including the former president’s handling of sensitive documents and the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

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

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

“The pace of the investigation will not continue or slow down under my supervision,” Smith said in a statement. “I will render independent judgment and pursue the investigation expeditiously and thoroughly to achieve the outcome that the facts and the law dictate.”

Smith will oversee investigations into Trump’s handling of government documents following his departure from the White House last year and investigations into attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election, Garland said.

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

Trump said in a statement to Fox News that he would not be involved in the special counsel’s investigation.

“The Democratic Justice Department had nothing but Trump haters, so they just appointed a special prosecutor to pursue me. A shame!” Trump later wrote on social media.

Trump announced he would be making a statement later Friday from his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Biden, in his only public appearance that day, did not answer shouted questions from reporters about the special counsel. The White House was not involved in the decision to appoint Smith, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Smith, a political independent, was until recently Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court in The Hague charged with prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo. He previously headed the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division and served as a federal and state attorney in New York.

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

FBI agents seized thousands of government documents, some marked top secret, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home during a court-authorized search Aug. 8. Investigators are also looking into Trump for possible obstruction of the investigation. Trump filed a civil lawsuit to delay examining the documents and keep some records from investigators.

The other investigation is a broad probe into a failed conspiracy by Trump’s allies to overthrow the 2020 presidential election by filing stacks of fake voter rolls with the US National Archives and trying to prevent Congress from confirming Biden’s election victory.

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

POLITICAL DISTANCE

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

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

The series of criminal and civil state and federal investigations against Trump also includes a civil lawsuit brought by the New York State Attorney General alleging he and three of his adult children of fraud related to the family’s real estate business.

Smith is the Justice Department’s third special counsel appointed since 2017 to handle a politically sensitive case. Mueller did not come to a specific conclusion as to whether Trump obstructed justice, prompting then-Attorney General William Barr to make his own determination that there was no basis for such an accusation.

In 2019, Barr appointed John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. Of the three criminal cases Durham brought, two this year resulted in acquittals.

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