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US Attorney General Garland Defends Trump Special Counsel


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday defended the independent special counsel he appointed to handle federal criminal cases against former President Donald Trump, the first U.S. president to be charged with federal crimes.

Garland, in response to a reporter’s question, rejected the allegations of some Republicans in Congress that Trump’s prosecution by Special Counsel Jack Smith amounted to using the Justice Department as a weapon against political opponents.

“As I said when I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability,” Garland said, taking questions after an unrelated event at the Justice Department.

“Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law. Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by their filings in court.”

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It was the first time Garland has commented publicly about the matter since Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges that he unlawfully kept national security documents when he left office and lied to officials who sought to recover them.

Trump’s plea in a federal court in Miami, sets up a legal battle likely to play out over coming months as he campaigns to win back the presidency in a November 2024 election. It could be a year or more before a trial takes place.

Asked what role he had in the indictment process, Garland said, “so my role is completely consistent with the regulations that set forth responsibilities to the attorney general under the Special Counsel regulations, and I followed those regulations.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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Reuters

Published: 2023-06-14 18:49:12

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