Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed special counsel to investigate the full criminal investigation into the illegal retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, Fox News has learned.
Garland appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith to the role. Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the DOJ’s public integrity section, will oversee the investigation into Trump’s retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and whether the former president will continue the investigation. the federal government has obstructed the case.
Smith is also tasked with overseeing the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on January 6, 2021.
“It is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently conduct an investigation and prosecution based on recent developments, including [Trump’s] announcement that he is running for president in the next election and the incumbent president’s intent to run as well,” said Garland.
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Garland clarified that when it came to the January 6 investigation, Smith would not deal with the investigation or prosecution of Trump supporters who violated the US Capitol. Rather, Smith would focus on whether Trump or individuals and entities had attempted to impede the peaceful transfer of power.
FBI agents seized classified documents from Trump’s former home in Mar-a-Lago during the agency’s unprecedented raid on Aug. 8, including some marked top secret, according to a warrant and title deed.
An order, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, authorized officers to seize “all physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other illegally possessed items,” in violation of U.S. law. U.S. code, including documents with classification marks and presidential documents created between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021.
According to the property deed, FBI agents took about 20 boxes of items from the property, including a set of documents marked “Miscellaneous Classified/TS/SCI Documents,” which refers to top secret/sensitive classified information.
Records that fall under that government classification level may contain human intelligence and information that, if made public, could endanger relations between the U.S. and other countries, as well as the lives of intelligence agents abroad. However, the classification also includes national security information related to the day-to-day activities of the US president
The government conducted the search in response to what it considers a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — Collection, Transmission, or Loss of Defense Information; 18 USC 2071 — Conceal, Remove, or Mutilate; and 18 USC 1519 — Destruction, Alteration, or Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations.
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The charge of “gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information” falls under the Espionage Act.
The former president and his team dispute the classification and believe the information and documents have been released.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.