Attorney General Merrick Garland is tasking the prosecution with an investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents.

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, the United States Attorney General said Merrick Garland announced the appointment of District Attorney Jack Smith as special counsel in two to research about former president Donald Trump.

The first investigation is about whether “an individual or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election.”

The second examines whether Trump acted wrongly classified documents and other presidential documents after his departure from office, as well as whether he hindered an investigation in those documents.

Garland cited Trump’s decision Tuesday launch a presidential bid in 2024as well as US President Joe Biden’s intention to run, as reasons for the appointment of a special counsel.

“It is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently conduct an investigation and prosecution based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is running for president in the next election and the intention of the incumbent president to run for office. too,” Garland said.

Donald Trump raises a fist to Mar-a-Lago as he announces his 2024 presidential bid
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s press conference follows former President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is running for a second term as US president. [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

In the wake of his 2020 defeat, Trump falsely claimed that the election was “stolen”, stoking conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the number of votes.

Such claims helped spur the deadly people January 6 attack on the US Capitol, when Trump supporters tried to dissuade Congress confirmation of Biden as president. Trump’s involvement in that attack and the events leading up to it are part of the ongoing investigation.

During the press conference, Garland emphasized that the special counsel will “exercise independent judgment of the prosecution in deciding whether to press charges.” Garland also said the special counsel will be authorized to “prosecute any federal crimes that may arise from those investigations.”

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, D.C., said Garland’s decision to step back from the investigations and appoint special counsel is to avoid a “perceived conflict of interest.”

“This is a situation where the Justice Department is trying to get this work done, but there is no way we can accuse the Department of trying to tip the scales for or against Donald Trump, or [of] working on behalf of Joe Biden,” Jordan said.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reads from a teleprompter as he addresses the press on Nov. 18
US Attorney General Merrick Garland underlined the “independence” of the special counsel in remarks to reporters on Nov. 18 [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Smith, the newly appointed special counsel, is currently with Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague, Netherlands, where he investigates war crimes. Prior to that, he served as Chief of the Public Integrity Section for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015.

Smith immediately returns to the US to lead the investigation.

In his remarks, Garland described Smith “as an impartial and determined prosecutor who leads teams with energy and focus to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

He also cited Smith’s previous work at the United States Department of Justice, where he “led a team of more than 30 prosecutors dealing with public corruption and election crimes.”

“Given the work to date and Mr. Smith’s experience as a prosecutor, I am confident that this appointment will not delay the completion of these investigations,” Garland said.

“The men and women conducting these investigations conduct themselves to the highest standards of professionalism. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

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