US Attorney General Garland defends Trump’s 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 federal crimes.

Garland, in response to a reporter’s question, dismissed claims by some Republicans in Congress that Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Trump 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 Department of Justice’s commitment to independence and accountability,” Garland said, answering questions. after an event unrelated to the Department of Justice.

“Mr. Smith is a seasoned 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 will have to be answered by their filings before the tribunal. “

It was the first time Garland has publicly commented on the case 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 were trying to get them back.

Trump’s plea in federal court in Miami sets up a legal battle likely to unfold over the next few months as he campaigns to win back the presidency in the November 2024 election. It may take a year or so. more before a trial takes place.

Asked about the role he played in the charging process, Garland said: “So my role is entirely consistent with the regulations that set out the Attorney General’s responsibilities under the special advocates regulations, and I followed these rules.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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