Attorney General Merrick Garland was the center of Republican criticism after the Justice Department announced that it was appointing former DOJ official Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee investigations into former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents and Jan. 6.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that the timing of the special counsel’s appointment was problematic, given that Trump announced his third run for the White House just days prior.
Three “days ago, Trump announced and now [there is] a special counsel,” said Cruz. “This is Trump derangement syndrome but this time with a gun and badge.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) called the DOJ more “politicized and weaponized” now than at any other point in American history.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) went as far as to suggest that Republicans should use their new control of the House of Representatives to cut off funding for the investigation a soon as a new Congress begins.
“Republicans will need to refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer-funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee,” said Greene.
Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whom some have viewed as a potential 2024 contender, called the appointment “not good news” for the country.
“Jack Smith and his buddies have been politicizing Washington for AGES. And he’s who AG Garland picked to be the special counsel to ‘investigate’ President Trump? Come on,” the tweet states.
Democrats, meanwhile, defended the decision, claiming that the unprecedented nature of Trump being a candidate in 2024 necessitated a special counsel.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that he feels “confident” in Smith’s ability to follow the law and pursue justice in his investigation.
“By appointing well-respected career prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel, Attorney General Garland has demonstrated his commitment to avoiding even the appearance of politicization at the Justice Department,” said Durbin. “I am confident that Special Counsel Smith will pursue justice in these investigations without fear or favor, following the facts and the law wherever they lead.”
The White House also pushed back on GOP criticism, saying that Biden was unaware of Garland deciding to appoint a special counsel.
“We were not aware. As you know, the Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigation independently. We are not involved… I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any questions on this. But again, we were not given advance notice. We were not aware of this investigation,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday during a briefing.
Smith is a former U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ’s public integrity section, and will oversee the investigation into Trump’s retention of classified documents after leaving the White House. He will also help to determine whether the former president obstructed the federal government’s investigation into the matter.
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 Jan. 6, 2021.
“It is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution based on recent developments, including [Trump’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,” said Garland.