(The Hill) – Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Jack Smith, a Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor, as special counsel to oversee two ongoing criminal investigations that could lead to charges being filed against former President Donald Trump.
Garland announced the decision at a news conference on Friday, saying that Smith will be in charge of the investigations into whether anyone unlawfully interfered with the certification of the results and transfer of power from the 2020 presidential election and into the classified and sensitive documents that the FBI found at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago property in August.
Garland said he concluded that appointing a special counsel who will independently manage the investigations would be in the public’s interest given recent developments, including Trump’s announcement that he is running for president again in 2024 and President Joe Biden’s statements that he also intends to run.
The attorney general also explained that Smith is a veteran prosecutor who has served a variety of roles within the DOJ throughout his career.
“Throughout his career, Jack Smith has built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor who leads teams with energy and focus to follow the facts wherever they lead,” Garland said.
He started his career as an assistant district attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office in 1994 and became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999.
Smith served in the latter position for nine years, prosecuting charges like the gang murders of police officers and civil rights violations.
He left the DOJ in 2008 to serve as an investigation coordinator for the International Criminal Court, supervising war crimes investigations. He returned to the DOJ in 2010 to become chief of the department’s public integrity section, where he led more than 30 prosecutors in handling corruption and election crimes cases across the country.
Smith was appointed as the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in 2015 and went on to become the acting U.S. attorney in that district.
He has been serving as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, Netherlands, where he investigated and adjudicated war crimes in Kosovo in the 1990s.
A DOJ release states that Smith has resigned his position as chief prosecutor to become special counsel, and Garland said Smith will return from The Hague to the United States.
“As special counsel, he will exercise independent prosecutorial judgment to decide whether charges should be brought,” Garland said.
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A biography of Smith from his time serving as assistant U.S. attorney states that he has received multiple awards throughout his career, including the attorney general’s award for distinguished service and the Federal Bar Association’s younger federal attorney award.
Smith said in a statement after Garland’s announcement that the investigations and any prosecutions that come from them will be carried out independently and “in the best traditions” of the DOJ. He said the pace of the investigations will not pause under his watch.
“I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” he said.