US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed former war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith to oversee investigations into former President Donald Trump.
The independent prosecutor is to oversee investigations into Trump's handling of classified documents, as well as a probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The 'right thing to do'
The move comes just days after Trump announced his bid for presidency. Garland said that the announcement was one of the factors in his decision to appoint a special counsel.
"Appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do," Garland said. "Such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters."
"The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it," Garland said. He added that Smith was the "right choice to complete these matters in an even-handed and urgent manner."
Following the appointment, Smith said that investigations would be swift and independent.
"I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate," he said. "The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch."
Trump told the Fox News broadcaster that he would not participate in what he called a "political" and "unfair" investigation.
"I have been going through this for six years -- for six years I have been going through this, and I am not going to go through it anymore," the former president said.
The former president later spoke at more length at his Mar-a-Lago residence, telling the crowd: "They wanna do bad things to the greatest movement in the history of our country, but in particular they wanna do bad things to me. But luckily, I've gotten used to it."
Meanwhile, the White House said that President Joe Biden was not given advanced notice of Smith's appointment, and that it would not "polticize" investigations.
"We were not involved in this... We're not involved in criminal investigations," said spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.
"This is not an administration, the president has been very clear, that will politicize the Department of Justice," she said.
Who is Jack Smith?
Veteran prosecutor Jack Smith led the Justice Department's public integrity section in Washington.
Later, he also served as the acting chief federal prosecutor in Nashvile, Tennesse under former President Barack Obama's administration.
In 2018, Smith was appointed a specialist prosecutor for a Hague-based court that investigated war crimes in Kosovo.
What are the investigations into Donald Trump?
The Justice Department is investigating the presence of classified documents at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
In September, a Justice Department inventory showed that 10,000 documents had been seized from the residence in a raid carried out by the FBI. The Washington Post reported that some of the documents seized detailed top-secret US operations
Another probe is examining Trump's alleged role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. A House select committee investigating the riot said late last month that it had "overwhelming evidence" that Trump had "personally orchestrated" attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and issued a subpoena to the former head of state.
sdi/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)