The newly appointed special prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump is an old acquaintance of the Justice Department, and from the Democratic Party. Among the highlights of his long career as a prosecutor, Jack Smith led the Administration's Public Integrity Section during Barack Obama's administration. In this position, he led two major investigations against prominent Republican politicians and his name was also linked to a campaign to pressure the IRS to damage conservative organizations.
Smith is someone who knows the DOJ well. It was certainly not for nothing, that he worked there for many years. He began his career as a prosecutor in New York investigating sex crimes and domestic violence. From there he moved to the city's Eastern District Attorney's office, where he held supervisory positions. In 2008, he accepted a position as investigations coordinator for the Office of the Prosecutor at the Hague Tribunal. In 2010, after Barack Obama's victory, Smith returned to the U.S. to head the Public Integrity section of the DOJ.
Controversial investigations of Republican... politicians
In this position he undertook numerous cases related to political corruption. Among his best-known, are the investigations against former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and former Arizona Representative Rick Renzi, both... Republicans. Smith took office after the resounding failure of the agency's investigation against Senator Ted Stevens, also a conservative. Since taking office, he has been accused of abandoning several cases of politicians under investigation. Smith stepped forward to give assurances that these decisions were not out of fear.
In McDonnell's case, Smith secured a jury conviction on 11 felony and corruption charges. However, the Supreme Court overturned this sentence, with a special message to the Prosecutor's Office, which it reprimanded for "its boundless interpretation" of the Law. For his part, Renzi was sentenced to three years in prison, although he was later pardoned by Donald Trump in the period between his electoral defeat and Biden's inauguration.
Tax discrimination against conservative entities
But above all, his time at the DOJ was marked by his links to the IRS scrutiny scandal which investigated illegal delays to tax break applications from hundreds of conservative organizations between 2010 and 2012, according to a State Department of the Treasury report in 2013. In 2014, a meeting between a DOJ official and the then head of the IRS exempt entities area, Lois Lerner, came to light in which she was ordered to "get everything straightened out before the election." During the investigations, Smith was identified as the instigator of these meetings. Republican representatives accused Smith of pressuring the IRS against conservative organizers.
Smith will now investigate whether Trump, or people close to him, committed any wrongdoing after the 2020 election in an attempt to prevent Joe Biden's victory. He will also be in charge of looking into whether the former president transferred classified documents to Mar al Lago and to determine whether he is committing any form of obstruction of justice with his behaviour during the ongoing investigation. As for the first task, the special prosecutor has no jurisdiction to investigate the January 6 assault on the Capitol, which has its own prosecutors and is currently ongoing.
During the announcement of his appointment, Attorney General Merrick Garland explained why he has been pulled from his job as chief prosecutor at the Hague Tribunal to investigate Trump: "Throughout his career, Jack Smith has built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor who leads teams with energy and focus to follow the facts wherever they lead. As special counsel, he will exercise independent prosecutorial judgment to decide whether or not charges should be brought"
In relation to the person being chosen. Garland himself later acknowledged at a press conference that one of the reasons for applying this special figure to the investigations opened on Trump, is the announcement of his candidacy for the White House in 2024. With the figure of the special prosecutor, theoretically independent of the DOJ, the intention is to remove any action against the former president from the political sphere, leaving it in the hands of someone outside the Administration with almost (it still depends ultimately on the attorney general) absolute power over the development of the assigned tasks.
Although he was unable to be present at the presentation of his new position, - he is currently recovering from a bicycle accident in the Netherlands- Smith issued a statement: "I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, 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."