Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Jack Smith to act as special counsel overseeing the two criminal investigations relating to former President Donald Trump.

On Friday, Garland announced during a press conference that Smith, the former head of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, will be in charge of the two probes. The first one looks at Donald Trump’s potential role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot and the extent to which it was an attempt to stop the peaceful balance of power. The second investigation will be examining the handling of the documents found in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

This appointment came only three days after Trump launched his 2024 presidential campaign. Garland has maintained that this decision was in part driven by Trump’s announcement as the appointment would be in the public’s best interest. He added that the appointment of a special counsel would showcase the commitment of the department to ensure that the investigations are independent and that there is accountability regarding these sensitive cases.

Smith is a veteran prosecutor who has worked at both state and federal levels in the past three decades. He has also participated in international political criminal investigations.

Smith, a Harvard Law graduate, started his career in 1994 in Manhattan with the New York County District Attorney’s Office. From there he served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for nine years. During that time he supervised around 100 criminal prosecutors.
James McGovern, a lawyer who has collaborated with Smith before, has said that he does not know what Smith’s political beliefs are as he is “completely apolitical.”

In a statement, Smith also said that he would “independently” oversee the investigations and would swiftly reach decisions based on what the law dictates.