US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special prosecutor to oversee criminal investigations related to former President Donald Trump.
Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor, was appointed special prosecutor.
Smith will lead investigations into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents and his alleged role in the 2021 Capitol riots.
He will decide whether to criminally report the former president.
The appointment of the veteran prosecutor comes just three days after Trump officially launched his 2024 presidential bid.
Special counsels are semi-independent prosecutors who can be hired for high-profile investigations when there are conflicts of interest.
Their goal is to provide a way to protect the Ministry of Justice from political considerations in charging decisions.
“Based on recent events, including the former president’s announcement that he is running for president in the next election, and the current president’s stated intention to also run, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said in a statement.
Trump attacked the appointment within hours, in an interview with Fox News.
“I’ve been going through this for six years and I’m not going to go through it again,” Trump said.
“That is not acceptable. It’s so unfair. It’s so political.”
A Trump spokesman responded to the appointment by calling it “a completely expected political ploy by a helpless, politicized, weaponized Biden Justice Department.”
Smith, who led the Justice Department’s public integrity division in Washington and later served as acting U.S. attorney in Nashville, Tenn., is scheduled to start immediately.
Since 2018, he has served as the chief prosecutor of the special court in The Hague, which is in charge of investigating international war crimes.
The Justice Department has described Smith as a registered independent, trying to blunt any attack of perceived political bias.
In a statement released by the Justice Department, Smith said he intends to do his job independently and “in the best traditions of the Justice Department.”
“The pace of the investigation will not stop or falter under my watch,” he promised.
Although Smith will be authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from his investigation, Garland still retains ultimate oversight of his work.