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

World Nov 18, 2022 06:16PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for U.S. president 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. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday named Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor, to serve as special counsel to oversee Justice Department investigations related to Donald Trump including the former president's handling of sensitive documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

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

Special counsels are sometimes appointed to investigate politically sensitive cases and they do their jobs with a degree of independence from the Justice Department leadership.

"The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch," Smith said in a statement. "I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate."

Smith will oversee the investigation into Trump's handling of government documents after leaving the White House last year and the probe into attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election, Garland said.

"Appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do," Garland, who was appointed by Biden, told a news conference.

Trump, in a statement to Fox News, said he "won't partake" in the special counsel's investigations.

"The Democrat Department of 'Justice' had nothing, except Trump haters, so they just appointed a Special Prosecutor to go after me further. Disgraceful!" Trump later wrote on social media.

Trump posted that he will make a statement later on Friday from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

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

Smith, a political independent, until recently served as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, tasked with prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo. He previously oversaw the Justice Department's public integrity section and worked as a federal and state prosecutor in New York.

This marks the second time in five years that the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to probe Trump's conduct. Former FBI director Robert Mueller, named as a special counsel in 2017, documented contacts between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, but found insufficient evidence to bring a charge of criminal conspiracy.

FBI agents seized thousands of government records, some marked as highly classified, from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home during a court-approved Aug. 8 search. Investigators also are examining Trump for possible obstruction of the probe. Trump filed a civil lawsuit in an effort to delay the documents investigation and keep some records away from investigators.

The other investigation is a sprawling probe into a failed plot by Trump's allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election by submitting batches of phony slates of electors to the U.S. National Archives and trying to block Congress from certifying Biden's election victory.

A grand jury is hearing evidence in that case, with prosecutors issuing subpoenas for testimony to top former White House attorneys and close advisers to Vice President Mike Pence.

POLITICAL DISTANCE

While Garland ultimately has authority over the special counsel, the appointment of Smith may 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 working on the investigations alongside Smith.

Smith recently underwent surgery after injuring a knee in a biking accident. He did not attend the news conference.

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

Smith is the Justice Department's third special counsel to be appointed since 2017 to handle a politically sensitive case. Mueller did not explicitly reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, prompting then-Attorney General William Barr to make his own determination that there was not a basis for such a charge.

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

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

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Comments (11)
Jurjen Visser
Jurjen Visser Nov 20, 2022 12:23PM ET
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Political hit squad, like the Gestapo...
John Laurens
John Laurens Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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LLMMFFAAOO
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John Laurens
John Laurens Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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Brad Albright  oh I get it! because all fascist dems are little cucks who like wearing their mommy's under pants... good one there Braaaaaad....
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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No, because you posted a comment about wishing to raype Elizabeth Holmes. Own it.
Adrian White
Adrian White Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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John, please learn what 'fascist' actually means before you further embarrass yourself.
John Laurens
John Laurens Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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Adrian White  Radical democrats ARE fascists. I know exactly what it means. own it.
John Laurens
John Laurens Nov 18, 2022 10:06PM ET
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Brad Albright  pretty sure that's not the word I used. You like to exaggerate there don't you Braaaad?
David CA
ILoveQE Nov 18, 2022 8:42PM ET
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Another boondoggle
james moneyhun
james moneyhun Nov 18, 2022 3:17PM ET
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I agree.Trump should not run.
Michael Mcdonough
Michael Mcdonough Nov 18, 2022 3:07PM ET
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Let’s see investigation of Biden crime family followed by next investigation of his political opponent…sounds like a lot of seniltiy going on here
JIM VETTER
JIM VETTER Nov 18, 2022 2:59PM ET
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Garland is a political hack. Trump should not run
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 18, 2022 2:38PM ET
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Good. People with half a brain will understand how this mitigates against accusations of political motivation. The koocks will see a conspiracy.
JIM VETTER
JIM VETTER Nov 18, 2022 2:38PM ET
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People with a full brain understand this is a political hack job. I'm no supporter of Trump but these people are ridiculous.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 18, 2022 2:38PM ET
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You are aware that the man spirited away classified documents, declined to provide them in response to a subpoena and took steps to further conceal them? Based on public knowledge, any fair minded person would think this worthy of investigation.
Matthew Petyk
Matthew Petyk Nov 18, 2022 2:38PM ET
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.. Trump should be held accountable for any crimes he has committed. Most people on the right belive that to be the case from what I've seen. Unlike when Hillary destroyed 30K emails that were on a compromised server. some of which jeopardized National security. and she lied. Democrats whole-heartedly backed her and never held her accountable. Seriously, if you or I had done what she did, we would be in jail. yet the hypocrisy on the left knows no boundaries.
billy jones
billy jones Nov 18, 2022 2:38PM ET
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Brad Albright Kanye was right
kiven Geldon
kiven Geldon Nov 18, 2022 2:35PM ET
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2 years to do but a few days after announcing his running instead. Nothing odd at all going on.
Kate Davis
Kate Davis Nov 18, 2022 2:27PM ET
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There is NO justice department in US at all. There's ONLY Injustice kable in US now.
Sidney Glover
Sidney Glover Nov 18, 2022 2:27PM ET
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spelling and word choice denotes Russian operative. stop
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 18, 2022 2:24PM ET
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A strategy straight out of an authoritarian government’s playbook that makes the persecution of political opponents look legitimate.
Gus McCrae
Gus McCrae Nov 18, 2022 2:24PM ET
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worse than in an authoritarian regime.
Don Getty
Don Getty Nov 18, 2022 2:24PM ET
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you did notice the coup attempt Jan 6th and the first move of the GOP congress to not do anything productive, but to investigate Hunter Biden - trumps dream since he tried to coercec,Ukraine to do it! Guess you forgot trumps entire 4 years
Matthew Petyk
Matthew Petyk Nov 18, 2022 2:24PM ET
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you did notice the 4 years of lies by democrats to try and unseat a dully elected president.. THAT was the real coup attempt.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 18, 2022 2:24PM ET
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720 convictions.
 
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