DOJ to announce special counsel for Mar-a-Lago, J6 probes


Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, revolt.

Each investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy within the 2024 presidential race, making him a possible rival of President Joe Biden.

“Based on recent developments, including the previous president’s announcement that he’s a candidate for president in the following election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I even have concluded that it’s in the general public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said on the Justice Department on Friday.

Jack Smith, the previous chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations.

Smith “has built the fame as an impartial and determined prosecutor,” Garland said.

Trump has sought to color the investigations as politically motivated, including at his Tuesday presidential announcement, where he said he was the victim of a “weaponization” of the justice system.

Speaking on the America First gala at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night, the previous president called the special counsel appointment an “appalling announcement” and a “horrendous abuse of power.”

The Mar-a-Lago probe burst into public view when the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Florida resort in August. Trump went to court to secure an order requiring that a 3rd attorney review the materials seized within the search. Documents marked as classified were excluded from that review by an appellate court, allowing for his or her use within the criminal probe. Investigators have also brought witnesses before a federal grand jury that has been empaneled in DC within the probe.

The prosecutions of those that physically breached the US Capitol have been probably the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and people will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses near the previous president for documents and testimony within the probe.

“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that will result from them, independently and in the most effective traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a press release Friday. “The pace of the investigations is not going to pause or flag under my watch. I’ll exercise independent judgment and can move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever end result the facts and the law dictate.”

Investigations heating up

In response to multiple sources, each the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to assemble more information and produce witnesses right into a federal grand jury in the approaching weeks. Prosecutors sent out several latest subpoenas related to each investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.

A few of the witnesses being pursued on this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, in line with a few of the sources.

Many in Trump’s orbit had believed and hoped that the investigation had slowed and even halted, as they hadn’t heard from the Justice Department for weeks after meeting their subpoena document deadlines, multiple sources said.

A few of the subpoenas issued within the probe have indicated a wide-ranging investigation that touches on nearly all facets of the efforts to overturn Biden’s electoral victory. They signaled that investigators are all in favour of the plot to recommend fraudulent electors in states Biden won, the work Trump allies did to push baseless election fraud claims and the way money flowed to support those various efforts.

Trump’s team had been discussing in recent days the likelihood that the Justice Department would appoint a special counsel, multiple sources accustomed to the talks told CNN.

Trump’s lawyers had been dreading the prospect, concerned it could drag out the investigation they’ve fought repeatedly in court. And Trump himself has complained concerning the matter, likening the prospect to former special counsel Robert Mueller, who oversaw the Russia investigation.

The previous president on Friday indicated that he had believed federal investigations into him were slowing down or over until the announcement from Garland. He repeatedly called the investigations political and said it was not a good situation and wouldn’t be a good investigation, telling the group at Mar-a-Lago, “You’d really say enough is enough.”

Justice Department officials had been debating for weeks whether to appoint a special counsel, CNN previously reported.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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