Attorney General Garland names special counsel in Trump Mar-a-Lago and Jan. 6 probes

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Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor, was selected to oversee the investigations.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed John L. “Jack” Smith as special counsel to oversee the entirety of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the alleged unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, as well as key aspects of its probe into the events of Jan 6.

Trump’s announcement Tuesday that is running for president for a third time created a conflict of interest and triggered the appointment of a special counsel, according to the DOJ special counsel guidelines.

In his appointment order, Garland says Smith “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 January 6, 2021.”

Smith is further instructed to conduct the investigation into national defense information found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, according to the order, “as well as any matters that arose or may arise directly” from that investigation. Smith “is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Garland’s appointment order states. “The Special Counsel is also authorized to refer to the appropriate United States Attorney discrete prosecutions that may arise from the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases. It is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president stated intention to be a candidate as well,” Garland told reporters on Friday.

“I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel. Such an appoint an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said. “It also allows prosecutors and agents to continue their work expeditiously and to make decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.”

Garland said Smith is the right choice and that the he will make sure the investigation receives all the necessary resources.

“I will ensure that the special counsel receives the resources to conduct this work quickly and completely,” Garland said. “Given the work to date and Mr. Smith’s prosecutorial experience, I am confident this appointment will not slow the completion of these investigations.”

Smith, according to a senior DOJ official, is a political independent and formerly served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, and the chief of DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, and, later, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, later becoming the acting U.S. attorney there.

From 2017-18, he served as VP of litigation for the Hospital Corporation of America, and since 2018 he has served as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague charged with investigating war crimes in Kosovo.

He will begin work as special counsel immediately.

abcnews