Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago report and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.
Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations.
Justice Department officials have been debating for weeks whether to appoint a special counsel, CNN previously reported.
Trump has sought to paint the investigations as politically motivated, including at his Tuesday presidential announcement, where he said he was the victim of a “weaponization” of the justice system.
Trump’s team had been discussing in recent days the likelihood that the Justice Department would appoint a special counsel, multiple sources familiar with the talks told CNN.
Trump’s lawyers had been dreading the prospect, concerned it could drag out the investigation they have fought continuously in court. And Trump himself has complained about the matter, likening the prospect to former special counsel Robert Mueller, who oversaw the Russia investigation.
According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.
Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.
This story has been updated with additional details.