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Trump Lashes Out at Appointment of DOJ Special Counsel, Says Move is ‘Unfair’ and a ‘Disgrace’

U.S. News & World Report 11/18/2022 Claire Hansen
The Associated Press © The Associated Press The Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump lashed out Friday against the Justice Department following the appointment of a special counsel to take over two ongoing criminal probes involving him, saying that he was “not going to partake” in the investigations and deriding the move as “the worst politicization of justice in our country.”

Trump’s comments, made to Fox News Digital, came shortly after Attorney General Merrick Garland named Jack Smith as a special counsel tasked with taking charge of the investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents and state secrets as well as the probe into the role of Trump and others in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Smith is a veteran Justice Department prosecutor who also most recently investigated and prosecuted war crimes at The Hague.

The appointment of the special counsel comes just three days after Trump declared his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election and was a deliberate attempt by Garland to safeguard the investigations against the appearance of politicization. Smith will work largely independently but will ultimately still report to Garland, who would have a say in any eventual prosecutions.

Smith is the third special counsel to be appointed to investigate matters relating to Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller probed links between the Trump campaign and Russia, resulting in a number of prosecutions. His report came out during Trump’s time in office and established links between the entities, though did not end in an indictment of Trump.

Trump and other Republicans quickly denounced the appointment of Smith.

“They found nothing, and now they take some guy who hates Trump. This is a disgrace and only happening because I am leading in every poll in both parties,” Trump told Fox News.

“It is unfair to the country, to the Republican Party, and I don’t think people should accept it. I am not going to accept it. The Republican Party has to stand up and fight,” Trump said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, was one of several GOP lawmakers who responded to the news publicly.

“Joe Biden has completely weaponized the Department of Justice to attack his political opponents. 3 days ago, Trump announced and now a Special Counsel,” he tweeted. “This is Trump derangement syndrome but this time with a gun and badge.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing Friday that the White House was not informed prior to Garland’s appointment and that the Justice Department is and will continue to act independently.

“The Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigations independently. we were not involved,” she said.

“We do not politicize the Department of Justice,” she added. “This is not an administration, the president has been very clear, that will politicize the Department of Justice.”

In a statement released soon after Garland’s announcement, Smith said he would conduct the investigations “independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”

“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” Smith said.

The Justice Department is investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left office, as well as efforts to obstruct that investigation.

In August, FBI agents took more than 13,000 documents from Trump’s residence at the Florida club, of which 103 were classified and 18 were labeled top secret, according to court filings. Some of those documents reportedly included deeply sensitive intelligence on China and information on Iran’s missile program.

The National Archives and Records Administration had previously noticed the cache of missing documents and asked Trump to return them. Two previous caches of documents returned from Trump’s possession earlier this year contained more than 220 classified documents in total.

Trump has fought the investigation in court, in one case winning the appointment of a special master to intervene in the documents, though that appointment appeared to backfire for Trump’s legal team. He has previously floated the theory that federal agents planted some of the documents themselves at Mar-a-Lago and has been called out by a federal judge who asked him to document the sensational claim. The requirement was later lifted.

The former president has denied any wrongdoing with regard to the documents. His lawyers have argued in court that the documents were protected by executive privilege and, if not, were declassified by Trump. Trump has claimed that the president has unilateral authority to declassify documents even by “thinking” it, and that he did so with those that were in his possession – statements experts say are at odds with the law. Trump’s lawyers have also not provided evidence that he formally declassified any of the documents.

The Justice Department is also investigating the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, which was catalyzed by election fraud lies promoted by Trump and his allies, and which Democrats say was aimed at stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote.

That has happened in tandem with a House committee probe into the event. That committee over the course of a number of hearings this year painstakingly presented evidence that Trump instigated the insurrection and then failed to take action to stop it in a timely manner.

Garland detailed Friday that the special counsel’s probe would not include investigations into members of the public who were physically present at the insurrection and inside the Capitol that day.

Copyright 2022 U.S. News & World Report

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