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Attorney General Merrick Garland will name special counsel in Trump criminal probes

Former U.S. President Donald Trump claps as he announces that he will once again run for U.S. president in the 2024 U.S. presidential election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, November 15, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will appoint a special counsel on Friday to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against former President Donald Trump in connection with two pending investigations.

News of the planned appointment of the special counsel, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, came three days after Trump announced plans to run for president in 2024. The Republican faces multiple criminal investigations.

NBC News soon after reported that the special counsel, whose name has not been announced, will make decisions for two Department of Justice investigations of Trump.

One is focused on whether Trump broke the law and obstructed justice in connection with his removal of hundreds of documents from the White House, which were shipped to his residence at Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. The other probe is related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of Trump supporters.

Garland is scheduled to make a public statement at 2:15 p.m. ET Friday.

Garland’s appointment of a special counsel could tamp down concerns that he would have a conflict of interest if he were the one to decide whether Trump should be proecuted. The attorney general was appointed by President Joe Biden, a Democrat who defeated Trump in his 2020 re-election bid.

Biden could again face Trump again in the 2024 election.

A White House official told NBC News on Friday, “DOJ makes decisions about its criminal investigations independently, and we are not involved, so I would refer you to DOJ for any questions on this.” 

Barbara McQuade, an NBC News legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, in a Time magazine article on Thursday argued against the idea of a special counsel being appointed in the Trump probes, saying it could potentially delay prosecution so long that he would avoid being held accountable for potential crimes.

“Practical consideration also militate against appointing a special counsel: time,” McQuade wrote.

“Appointing a new lawyer to take over the investigation will create delay. A new lawyer would need to hire his own staff, all of whom would need time to get up to speed,” she wrote.

“If Trump is seeking to regain the Oval Office, then DOJ must complete not only the investigations, but the trials before Jan. 20, 2025. That’s when a newly sworn in President Trump could take the ultimate act of partisanship in prosecution — and pardon himself.”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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