Donald Trump arrested: House GOP takes aim at special counsel Jack Smith

Jack Smith
FILE – Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to reporters Friday, June 9, 2023, in Washington. Former President Donald Trump is facing 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents according to an indictment unsealed on Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) Alex Brandon/AP

Donald Trump arrested: House GOP takes aim at special counsel Jack Smith

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Jack Smith has kept a low profile since he was tapped in November to investigate Donald Trump as special counsel.

But the Thursday indictment of the former president has thrust Smith into the political spotlight, opening the floodgates to a wave of GOP attacks that until now had mostly been reserved for top leadership at the Department of Justice.

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House Republicans have been livid since Attorney General Merrick Garland took the unprecedented step in August of approving a raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in search of classified documents he kept after leaving office.

His appointment of a special counsel three months later did nothing to ease concerns that the move was politically motivated.

The GOP has used its majority power in the House to investigate Garland, both over the documents case and a broader perception that the agency is persecuting conservatives.

Those efforts have only intensified since the Justice Department charged Trump with concealing the files from investigators.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, doubled down on his demand that Garland hand over records related to the search of Mar-a-Lago in a letter sent one day after the indictment.

But even before Trump was charged on dozens of counts, including obstruction of justice, in the classified documents case, Jordan was shifting his scrutiny to Smith.

Jordan sent a June 1 letter asking Garland how many FBI employees were on Smith’s team and whether any of them had previously investigated the former president. Just days later, he requested a memo outlining the scope of Smith’s work.

The requests may just be a preview of what’s to come in House Republicans’ oversight of the special counsel investigation.

Jordan could call Smith to testify before his committee, a request the DOJ is unlikely to comply with. His colleagues are even discussing a push to defund the special counsel’s office itself.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), one of Trump’s most ardent defenders in Congress, introduced a bill on Monday to remove the funding in this year’s appropriations bills.

“Everything is on the table,” Jordan told CNN on Tuesday.

The animosity from House Republicans mirrors that of Trump, who laid into Smith in a Saturday speech from Georgia denouncing the prosecutor as “deranged.”

“And he’s a big Trump hater; openly, he’s a Trump hater,” Trump said of Smith, who is a registered independent.

Smith defended the investigation on Friday, delivering a brief statement to warn the public about the “scope and the gravity” of the charges against Trump.

But his investigation is just one part of what conservatives see as a larger plot to take down the former president. Smith is also probing Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election in parallel with a similar investigation in Fulton County, Georgia.

And a Manhattan prosecutor issued Trump’s first indictment two months ago in a case alleging he falsified business records.

Critics say it’s a tangled web of Trump’s own making and that the former president is not above the law.

But his defenders note that the federal charges come at a politically fraught time, with Trump the odds-on favorite to compete against President Joe Biden, embroiled in his own documents scandal, in 2024.

The former president’s poll numbers spiked after his first indictment as Trump railed on what he called a political “witch hunt.”

It’s a turn of phrase that Trump has used ever since a separate special counsel, Robert Mueller, investigated whether he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller did not establish any wrongdoing, but that investigation was the basis for what Trump called a “deep state” plot against him.

The Republican Party has become captured by Trump’s own distrust of the Justice Department since then. The percentage of GOP voters with a “positive view” of the FBI has dropped by more than 20 points over the last decade.

The House GOP has not only embraced that skepticism but now holds outright hostility toward the agency.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) vowed to “hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable” following Trump’s indictment and has even toyed with the idea of slashing funding for the construction of a new $4 billion headquarters for the FBI.

House Republicans have locked horns with the Biden administration since assuming power in January, but the most dramatic clash yet came earlier this month when McCarthy threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress over the agency’s failure to turn over a document alleging Biden was involved in a bribery scheme.

It’s against this backdrop that Smith is conducting his investigation into Trump.

The special counsel, a career lawyer with the Justice Department, is well acquainted with prosecuting politicians and other high-profile figures. He led the agency’s Public Integrity Unit from 2010 to 2015.

But the case could not be more politically charged or public. Trump has even attacked Smith’s wife over it.

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The former president appeared for his court date in Miami on Tuesday afternoon in what Smith hopes will be a speedy trial.

But the case is not expected to conclude before the presidential election in November of next year.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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