Attorney General Merrick Garland names special counsel in Justice Dept.’s Trump probes

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump will be the subject of a second special counsel investigation, this one focused on his handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home and “key aspects” of the investigation into his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday.

“Based on recent developments, including Trump’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the current president’s intention to be a candidate in the next election, I have concluded it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at a news conference.

Garland said that on Friday morning he signed a letter formally naming John L. Smith, known as Jack Smith, a prosecutor at The Hague and a former federal prosecutor, to begin serving as special counsel “immediately.” Smith was previously the chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, where he oversaw public corruption and elections-related investigations.

Smith is assigned with investigating whether anyone 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.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will continue investigating those individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign this week. Given that Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden, naming a special counsel would give Garland more distance from the investigation into Trump, who could be Biden’s rival if the president decides to run for re-election.

Trump was previously under investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller, who issued his report in 2019 focusing on Russian interference in the 2020 election and Trump’s efforts to interfere with the Justice Department investigation.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Daniel Barnes contributed.

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