The New Trump Inquiry Special Counsel Should Proceed Rapidly

Trump Inquiry Special Counsel: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday walks out to announce the appointment of a special counsel at the Justice Department in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The new special counsel for Trump’s investigation should move swiftly

On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to lead the criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago club, as well as aspects of the investigation into the insurrection that occurred on January 6, 2021, in the United States Capitol.

Mr. Garland noted that the “exceptional circumstances” provided by Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, which is now officially underway, required the appointment of a special counsel in accordance with the procedures of the Justice Department. To put it another way, he did not have an option but to continue.

To each his own. However, this indicates that there will be additional work for the attorney general in the future. The appointment of a special counsel comes with a number of possible drawbacks, not the least of which is the chance that the probe may be dragged out or change its focus, which could conceivably allow Mr. Trump off the hook. To stop something from happening will need an incredible amount of concentration.

Mr. Garland’s decision to appoint longtime federal prosecutor Jack Smith to lead this politically fraught investigation comes at a time when Republicans have attacked it as corrupt. They argue that an attorney general appointed by President Biden cannot be trusted to make a fair call on investigating Mr. Trump. Mr. Garland’s decision comes at a time when Republicans have attacked it as corrupt.

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Trump Inquiry Special Counsel
These assaults have never been justified in any manner. The autonomy of the Justice Department has been meticulously protected during the tenure of the Biden administration. In contrast, Mr. Trump repeatedly violated the traditions that keep the White House and law enforcement agencies apart, even going so far as to put pressure on the director of the FBI at the time, James B. Comey, to swear his allegiance.

It is not the right-wing conspiracy mill that poses the greatest threat, despite the fact that it is absurd to assume that Mr. Garland’s decision will ever put an end to the right-wing conspiracy mill. The first potential risk is an expanded scope of the endeavor. From Kenneth Starr in his investigation into the Clintons in the 1990s to John Durham in his investigation into the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation, special counsels in the past and the present have had a tendency to allow their investigations to get out of control, spending vast amounts of time and public resources on relatively insignificant legal issues.

This is true of both Kenneth Starr and John Durham. Investigations of this nature frequently give people the unfortunate feeling that they need to discover anything. When there is no one to keep an eye on things, investigations by special counsel have a tendency to go too far.

The next topic is political science. If Mr. Smith does not move quickly, this lawsuit might not be resolved by the election of 2024, and it might even stretch beyond that date. If Mr. Trump were to win the election and move back into the White House, the regulations of the Justice Department regarding the prosecution of sitting presidents may allow him to avoid any accountability that he would be due.

It is still Mr. Garland’s responsibility to avoid falling into these traps, and his judgment in what is shaping up to be one of the most potentially explosive investigations in the history of the Justice Department will continue to be put to the test. Although Mr. Smith will be in control of the day-to-day operations of the investigation, the Attorney General will continue to supervise the work of the Special Counsel and decide whether any recommendations should be accepted or rejected.

It is incumbent to Mr. Garland to direct the inquiry so that it is objective, well-focused, and as expeditiously as possible. Accountability should continue to be the top priority, and it should be carried out in accordance with the rule of law, as he has made a concerted effort to guarantee.

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