Speed Reads

Speed Reads

Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints special counsel to oversee Trump investigations

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that he has named Jack Smith, a longtime former DOJ prosecutor, as special counsel to oversee two of the most significant Justice Department investigations of the past year: former President Donald Trump's alleged mishandling of classified national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and the events leading up to, and through, the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the United States Capitol. 

Citing both President Biden and Trump's decisions to run for office in 2024, Garland explained that he had ultimately "concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel."

The Wall Street Journal broke the news of Garland's decision shortly before the attorney general spoke with the press on Friday afternoon. 

"I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity," Garland said. "I also believe that appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it." 

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Biden had become frustrated with Garland's lack of action over Trump, reportedly comparing the attorney general to a "ponderous" judge, rather behaving like a law enforcement official. Shortly thereafter Garland issued a memo reminding staff of the department policy of largely avoiding politically sensitive decisions in the immediate lead-up to elections — such as the recent 2022 midterms — as those moves could be construed as potential interference.