Who is Jack Smith, the special counsel who secured an indictment against Trump?

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Nearly seven months after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents after leaving the White House, the independent special counsel presented his findings to a Florida grand jury.

"Today an indictment was unsealed charging Donald J. Trump with felony violations of our national security laws as well as participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice," Smith said in a brief statement delivered Friday at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. "This indictment was voted by a grand jury of citizens in the southern district of Florida and I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged."

Based on the strength of the evidence Smith laid out, the grand jury voted to indict Trump, though the details of the allegations have not been released. But Trump has already framed the case against him as politically motivated.

“THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS TOTALLY CORRUPT,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social, his Twitter-like social platform.

When Garland appointed Smith to handle the documents investigation and a separate one into Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, he was doing so to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain, extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution,” Garland said at the time.

Smith takes the reins

Garland handed Smith control of the two investigations just days after Trump announced he would seek a second term of office, challenging President Biden again.

“Today, I signed an order appointing Jack Smith to serve as special counsel,” Garland said during a news conference held at the Justice Department in Washington in 2022. “The order authorizes him to continue the ongoing investigation into both of the matters that I have just described and to prosecute any federal crimes that may arise from those investigations.”

In a statement, Smith, who did not attend Garland's press conference due to a bicycle accident that required knee surgery, according to the Washington Post, promised to use “independent judgement” in his handling of the two investigations and to complete them without delay.

American Prosecutor Jack Smith presides during the presentation of the Kosovar former president Hashim Thaci for the first time before a war crimes court in The Hague on November 9, 2020, to face charges relating to the 1990s conflict with Serbia. - Kosovar former president and one-time guerrilla leader, Hashim Thaci 52, who resigned as president last week, wore a grey suit and red tie for the hearing at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in the Dutch city. (Jerry Lampen/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Smith was appointed by the Justice Department to serve as special counsel to investigate former President Donald Trump. (Jerry Lampen/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

“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.

Smith's background

Given the sensitivity of the decision on whether to charge Trump with crimes in the two matters, Garland spent much of his November 2022 news conference seeking to assure the nation about Smith's qualifications for the role of special counsel.

“Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He began his prosecutorial career in 1994 as an assistant district attorney with the New York County D.A.'s office. In 1999, he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where over the course of nine years he prosecuted matters ranging from gang murders of police officers to civil rights violations. From 2008 to 2010, he served with the International Criminal Court, where he supervised war crimes investigations,” Garland said.

“In 2010, Mr. Smith returned to the Justice Department to serve as chief of the public integrity section, where he led a team of more than 30 prosecutors who handled public corruption and election crimes cases across the United States. In 2015, he agreed to serve as the first assistant attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, later becoming the acting U.S. attorney. Most recently, Mr. Smith served as a chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague, charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel at the Justice Department in 2022.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel at the Justice Department in 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Smith, Garland said, would be returning from the Netherlands “immediately” to begin his work on the two Trump cases, portraying him as “an impartial and determined prosecutor.”

In the days and weeks ahead, the attorney general said, Smith will work on his own. He also promised that Smith's appointment would not result in the slow-walking of the investigations of the former president.

“Although the special counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the department, he must comply with the regulations, procedures and policies of the department. I will ensure that the special counsel receives the resources to conduct this work quickly and completely,” Garland said. “Given the work done to date and Mr. Smith’s prosecutorial experience, I am confident that this appointment will not slow the completion of these investigations.”