December 2, 2022

SURPRISE MOVE: Behind Merrick Garland and the DOJ’s Special Counsel appointment

SURPRISE MOVE: Behind Merrick Garland and the DOJ's Special Counsel appointment

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Attorney General Merrick Garland named international criminal prosecutor John L. Smith as a special counsel in the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into whether former president Donald Trump violated the Presidential Records and Espionage Acts with his stolen classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. as well as the DOJ investigation into his involvement in the January 6th, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.


Shutting down any criticism from what could be perceived as a conflict of political interest, Garland said in a press release:

“The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the ongoing  investigation into whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with efforts to interfere with the lawful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021, as well as any matters that arose or might arise directly from this investigation.”

Read the statement below. 

Days after the former President announced his plan to take a third run at the presidency, the Attorney General asserts the investigation into will continue into Trump, including prosecution if it’s warranted.

According to USA Today:

“The Justice Department has been pursuing at least three avenues of inquiry: from efforts to subvert the 2020 election and summoning the mob in the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol last year to Trump’s handling of highly classified documents that prompted an unprecedented search of a former president’s property to recover a tranche of sensitive government records.”

Special counsels are usually appointed when there is a potential conflict of political interest. Able to move independently, they’re still under the purview and authority of the Attorney General, but with more latitude.

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John Smith, also known as Jack, is well-versed in war crimes and espionage. In 2018, Smith was appointed as Special Prosecutor by the European Union, and from 2008-2010, Smith was an investigator for the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

He also served as Chief of the Public Integrity department of the DOJ, and a member of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution team for almost a decade.

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Garland bringing in the big guns signals the Justice Department’s belief that former President Trump acted in ways contrary to what is expected of the commander-in-chief

Smith has supervised over 100 prosecutors investigating crimes from corruption to white-collar and domestic crimes.

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Read the Attorney General’s letter below.

Original reporting by Kevin Johnson at USA Today.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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