White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Joe Biden was not aware of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to name former Justice Department official Jack Smith to serve as special counsel in two investigations involving former President Donald Trump.
Garland announced Friday afternoon that Smith, who most recently served as the chief war crimes prosecutor for the special court in the Hague, would determine any criminal charges stemming from the DOJ’s investigations of Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and his handling of classified materials after leaving office.
Jean-Pierre faced multiple questions on Smith’s appointment during Friday’s White House press briefing, the majority of which she referred back to the Justice Department. She repeatedly reiterated that the White House was not briefed on Garland’s plan ahead of time.
“He was not aware. We were not aware, as you know, the Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigation independently,” she said in one exchange. “We were not given advance notice. We were not aware of this investigation.”
Later in the briefing, Jean-Pierre told reporters that while she had not yet spoken to Biden about the subject, she is “assuming it was a senior member of his staff who would most likely have let him know about the special counsel” following the DOJ’s announcement.
“We do not politicize the Department of Justice,” she added, attempting to shoot down Trump’s own reaction to Smith’s appointment. “This is not an administration, the president has been very clear, that will politicize the Department of Justice.”
You can watch Friday’s press briefing in full below.