New revelations about the wife of special counsel Jack Smith should be enough to force Smith’s appointment to be withdrawn.
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s judgment already deservedly was in question regarding his decision to appoint any special counsel to investigate former President Donald Trump. It is not clear at all whether a special counsel is necessary or wise. The specific choice of Smith, though, seemed not completely untoward. He has held numerous positions of distinction (not worth recounting here). And while sometimes his judgment as a prosecutor seemed less than absolutely ideal, at least he didn’t look overtly political, as he had handled high-profile cases against Democrats as well as Republicans.
Granted, earlier conservative complaints about Smith looked less than convincing. They said Smith was “involved” in the Obama administration’s use of the IRS for abusive targeting of conservative groups, but all he did was hold a meeting with the abusive official, Lois Lerner. There truly is no indication Smith or his Justice Department office, as opposed to Lerner, took any action detrimental to conservatives.
Still, the IRS situation already should have made Garland wary. Especially in a high-profile appointment with major political ramifications such as this one, the need for absolutely impeccable nonpartisanship is paramount. It’s not enough for Garland to “trust” that the special counsel is unbiased. Instead, there should be no decent reason for any observer to distrust the appointee’s objectivity. This is one instance in which appearances really do matter because what’s at stake is the faith of the public in the workings of the constitutional system of justice.
Alas, even if Garland is determined to take the questionable step of appointing a counsel at all, a semi-thorough review by Garland should have made him find another person for the job. Smith’s wife, it turns out, is a hyperpartisan liberal movie-maker who donated $1,000 to Biden’s 2020 campaign and worked on a whole series of left-wing documentary or advocacy films, including a laudatory biographical film on former first lady Michelle Obama.
While it absolutely is not always right to assign a sort of political guilt-by-association with one’s spouse — couples certainly can have different political ideas and separate professional lives — this is not an ordinary situation. Garland is using subjective criteria to choose, rather than being forced, to appoint a special counsel, and the counsel is looking into a former president who has announced another candidacy. What was said about Caesar’s wife should apply to this special counsel’s wife, too, in order that the counsel himself be “above suspicion.”
Considering Smith’s semi-suspicious meeting with Lerner combined with Smith’s wife’s long, remunerative affiliation with left-wing projects, there exists no way most people right of center will ever trust the fairness of Smith’s investigation. The last thing this nation needs is yet another massive controversy about whether an investigation is a fair one rather than a witch hunt.
Indeed, Garland’s choice of Smith is an outrage. It is an outrage that must not stand.