Garland appoints special adviser to lead Trump-related investigations

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Garland appoints special adviser to lead Trump-related investigations
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The special advocate will still report to the Attorney General, who has the final say on whether to bring charges.

Merrick Garland enters federal district court, November 2, 2017, in Washington. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida, as well as aspects keys to a separate investigation involving the January 6, 2021. , insurgency and efforts to void the 2020 election.

The move, announced just three days after Trump officially launched his 2024 candidacy, is an acknowledgment of the undeniable political implications of two investigations that implicate not only a former president, but also a current White House hopeful.

Although the appointment installs a new supervisor at the top of the investigations – both of which are expected to pick up speed now that the midterm elections are over – the special counsel will still report to Garland, who has the final say on whether to lay charges.

The role will be filled by Jack Smith, a seasoned prosecutor who led the Justice Department’s public integrity section in Washington and later served as acting chief federal prosecutor in Nashville, Tennessee, during the Obama administration. Most recently, he served as Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague to investigate international war crimes.

The Justice Department has described Smith as a registered independent, an effort to blunt any attack of perceived political bias.

Representatives for Trump, a Republican, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

No immediate reason was given for the decision or its timing. Garland has spoken repeatedly about his singular focus on facts, evidence, and law in Justice Department decision-making and his determination to restore the agency’s political independence after the tumultuous years of the Trump administration.

And there doesn’t appear to be an obvious conflict like the one that led to the latest appointment of a special counsel to handle Trump-related investigations. Trump’s Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

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