Who is Jack Smith, the special counsel named in the Trump investigations



CNN

Special counsel Jack Smith, announced Friday by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is being extended to oversee the criminal investigation into the retention of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021 riot. – A seasoned prosecutor who has overseen various high-profile cases in a career spanning decades.

Smith’s experience ranges from prosecuting a sitting United States senator to prosecuting gang members who were eventually convicted of murdering New York City police officers. In recent years, Smith has been on trial for war crimes at The Hague. His career in various parts of the Justice Department, as well as in international courts, has often allowed him to keep the brass relatively low in the legal industry.

His experience and resume will allow him, at least initially, to fly beneath the political blows that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team quickly faced. It shows that he is adept at managing complex criminal cases related to both public corruption and national security and that he is used to making challenging decisions with political implications.

Smith is widely expected to be tasked with making policy decisions about whether to indict a former president of the United States. Garland’s comments on Friday and recent steps in the Mar-a-Lago and Jan. 6 investigations have indicated that, at the very least, Donald Trump is under investigation and may be charged with a crime.

“He knows how to make high-profile cases. He is independent. He’s not going to be swayed by anybody,” said Greg Andres, a former member of Mueller’s team.

Andres, who has known Smith since the late 1990s when they started in the U.S. attorney’s office and eventually became co-chiefs of the office’s criminal division, said Smith’s breadth of experience will help him withstand and toughen public scrutiny. Judgment calls.

“He will evaluate the evidence and understand what kind of case to charge or not. He has enough experience to make those judgments,” Andres said.

“He understands the court. He understands how to try a case. He knows how to prove a case,” he added. “Especially in these circumstances it will be critical to understand what evidence is required to prove the case in court.”

In a statement following his announcement, Smith promised to conduct investigations “independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”

“The pace of investigations will not be paused or marked under my supervision. I will exercise independent judgment and pursue investigations promptly and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and law dictate,” Smith said.

One former colleague emphasized that Smith had sued members of both parties.

“He’s going to be really aggressive,” the person said, adding that “things are going to be fast.” Smith, they said, “works very quickly,” has a unique ability to quickly decide what’s important to a case, and doesn’t waste time “handing things that are real sideshows.”

In court, Smith comes off as down-to-earth and relatable, this person said, characterizing that as a good quality to have as a prosecutor.

They said Smith would not care about the politics surrounding the case, that he had a very thick skin and would “do what he was going to do.”

Smith began his career in 1994 as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York State District Attorney’s Office. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999, where he prosecuted cases involving civil rights violations and the killing of police officers. Gangs, according to the Department of Justice.

As a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, one of Smith’s biggest and highest-profile cases was the prosecution of gang member Ronell Wilson for killing two New York City Police Department detectives during an undercover gun operation in Staten Island.

Wilson was convicted and sentenced to death, New York’s first capital case in 50 years, but a judge later found him ineligible for the death penalty.

Mo Fordman, who worked with Smith at the EDNY, called him “one of the best trial lawyers I’ve ever seen.”

“He’s a fantastic investigator; He leaves no stone unturned. He drills down to get to the facts,” Fodeman said.

Fodeman, who is still friends with Smith, said he was a “literally crazy” cyclist and triathlete.

Beginning in 2008, Smith served at the International Criminal Court and oversaw war crimes investigations under the Office of the Prosecutor for two years.

In 2010, he became head of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Division, where he oversaw the prosecution of public corruption cases before being appointed in 2015 as the First Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Although he is not widely known in Washington, D.C., legal circles, Smith is described as a consummate public servant.

About a decade ago, he hired a wave of line prosecutors for the Justice Department’s public integrity division, overseeing dozens of them over the years he was in charge there.

Brian Kidd, who was hired in the Smith unit, recalled how his boss walked him through every step of a complex racketeering case against corrupt police officers.

“He will not tolerate politically motivated prosecutions,” Kidd said. “And he has an incredible ability to motivate the people working with and under him. He is incredibly supportive of his team. ”

Smith handled some of the most high-profile political corruption cases in recent memory — to mixed results.

He was head of the Public Integrity Unit when then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was indicted in 2014, and he was involved in meetings with the defense team and was involved in the decision-making that led to the charges, according to a person familiar with the case. .

McDonnell was initially convicted of receiving gifts for political favors, but his conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Smith was also at the helm of the unit when the DOJ failed to convict former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards at trial.

A Republican source familiar with Smith’s oversight of the investigation into former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay praised Smith’s impartial approach, saying he ultimately made a “reasonable” decision to close the investigation without alleging any wrongdoing for the delay.

He has not lived in the United States in recent years while working in The Hague. He is no longer on the US Triathlon team but is still a competitive cyclist.

Smith took over as acting U.S. attorney when David Rivera left in early 2017, leaving the Justice Department later that year to become vice president of litigation at Hospital Corporation of America. In 2018, he became the chief prosecutor of the Special Court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo.

“Throughout his career, Jack Smith has built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor, leading teams with the energy and focus to follow matters wherever they lead,” Garland said during Friday’s announcement. “Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an even and urgent manner.

In May 2014, the House Oversight Committee interviewed Smith behind closed doors as part of a Republican-led investigation into the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative groups. Then-Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa launched the probe after a 2013 inspector general report found delays in processing applications by some conservative groups and later requests for information from them that were deemed unnecessary.

Republicans sought testimony from Smith, then head of the Public Integrity Division, because of his involvement in arranging a 2010 meeting between Justice Department officials and then-IRS official Lois Lerner, the official at the center of the IRS scandal. Isa and Rep. Isa and Rep. Jim Jordan are expected to serve as House justices. According to a May 2014 article by Jim Jordan, the meeting was called to discuss the “evolving legal landscape” of campaign finance law following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. President next year.

“In the face of political pressure from Citizens United and prominent Democrats, it appears that the department’s leadership, including Chief of Public Integrity Jack Smith, was in close contact with the IRS to address concerns about the decision,” Issa and Jordan wrote. Letter requesting Smith’s testimony.

Smith testified that his office had a “conversation” with the FBI about opening investigations into politically active nonprofits after meeting with Lerner, but ultimately did not., According to a transcript of his interview obtained by CNN.

Smith explained that he requested the meeting with the IRS because he was relatively new to the public integrity sector and wanted to learn more about the political nonprofit legal landscape following the Citizens United decision. He said Lerner explained that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to bring a case for abuse of tax-exempt status.

Smith repeated at several points in the interview that the Justice Department did not investigate because of politics.

“I want to be clear — it’s about looking at the issue, whether it makes sense to open investigations,” he said. “If we did, you know, how would you do this? Is there a prediction, a basis for starting an investigation? Things like that. I can’t sit here right now and specifically, you know, the back and forth of that discussion. I can tell you that – because one of your concerns is targeting organizations. And I can tell you, public honesty, that no investigation has been initiated as a result of those discussions, and as you know we certainly have not brought any lawsuits as a result.

Smith also testified that he was not aware of anyone in the Justice Department lobbying the IRS, and that he was never pressured by any political group to investigate.

“No. Maybe I can stop you. I know there’s this series of questions. I’ve never been asked these things, and nobody who knows me would ever think of asking me to do something like that,” Smith said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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