December 1, 2022

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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks on the Appointment of a Special Counsel

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<div>Good afternoon. I am here today to announce the appointment of a Special Counsel in connection with two ongoing criminal investigations that have received significant public attention. </div>

Good afternoon.

I am here today to announce the appointment of a Special Counsel in connection with two ongoing criminal investigations that have received significant public attention. 

The first, as described in court filings in the District of Columbia, is the investigation into whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021. 

The second is the ongoing investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records, as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation, referenced and described in court filings in a pending matter in the Southern District of Florida.

I am joined today by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves, and Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Kenneth Polite. Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen could not be here. He is currently in Germany, representing the Department at the G7 home affairs and security ministerial. 

U.S. Attorney Graves has been ably leading the investigations into the events leading up to and on January 6. He and dozens of assistant U.S. Attorneys and other prosecutors have taken on the monumental task of conducting over 900 prosecutions in defense of our democratic institutions.

Criminal Division prosecutors under the able leadership of Assistant Attorney General Polite have played a significant role in those prosecutions.

Assistant Attorney General Olsen has been ably leading the team responsible for investigating the matter involving classified documents and other presidential records, as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation.

All of the career prosecutors assigned to these matters are conducting their work in the best traditions of the Department of Justice. 

I also want to recognize the efforts of the many FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel who are assigned to these matters. They are working courageously and steadfastly, and are serving our nation honorably. I am grateful to them. We all are.

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.

Based on recent developments, including the former President’s announcement that he is a candidate for President in the next election, and the sitting President’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a Special Counsel.

Such an appointment underscores the Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters. It also allows prosecutors and agents to continue their work expeditiously, and to make decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.

The Special Counsel will conduct parts of the first investigation I just mentioned:  the investigation into whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or with the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6.

This does not include prosecutions that are currently pending in the District of Columbia, or future investigations and prosecutions of individuals for offenses committed while they were physically present on the Capitol grounds on January 6. Those investigations and prosecutions will remain under the authority of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The Special Counsel will also conduct the investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records, as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation.

Today, I signed an order appointing Jack Smith to serve as Special Counsel. The order authorizes him to continue the ongoing investigations into both of the matters that I have just described and to prosecute any federal crimes that may arise from those investigations.

Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor.

He began his prosecutorial career in 1994 as an Assistant District Attorney with the New York County DA’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.

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 U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, later becoming the Acting United States Attorney.

Most recently, Mr. Smith served as the chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo. Mr. Smith will begin his work as Special Counsel immediately, and will be returning to the United States from The Hague.

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 charges should be brought. 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. 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. 

The men and women who are pursuing these investigations are conducting themselves in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism. I could not be prouder of them.

I strongly believe that the normal processes of this Department can handle all investigations with integrity. And I also believe that appointing a Special Counsel at this time is the right thing to do. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.

Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an even-handed and urgent manner.

Thank you all.

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