Attorney General Merrick Garland was asked directly by a reporter to explain “exactly” what his role was in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of former President Donald Trump — and his response was telling.
Garland, who as head of the U.S. Department of Justice oversaw Smith’s investigation, was grilled by a reporter about why he did not stop the indictment.
“When did you find out the special counsel was headed down this track? And why did you choose not to stop him as was in your power?” an off-camera reporter asked Garland, who was sitting at a table with other officials.
“So, as you know, I can’t talk about the particular particulars of this or any other ongoing criminal matter. As I said when I pointed out, Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability. 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,” Garland said.
Garland was then asked, “Can you give the American public a very clear sense of what exactly your role was in the indictment process, just so people can understand what that role is?”
Garland refused to provide specifics and simply replied that his “role has been completely consistent with the regulations that set forth the responsibilities of the attorney general under the special counsel regulations, and I followed those regulations.”
The federal judge granted Trump a pretrial release with no special conditions except no contact with witnesses. Smith has charged Trump with 37 counts related to his handling of classified documents.
If he is found guilty on all counts, Trump — who is President Joe Biden’s chief rival in next year’s presidential election — could face decades in prison.
According to the indictment, Trump allegedly showed classified documents to several people who did not have the proper security clearances on at least two separate occasions. The DOJ alleges that both instances occurred at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Details regarding one of the alleged instances were leaked to CNN.
The network reported that federal prosecutors had “obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything.”
The charges “include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, a scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations,” ABC News reported.
“Maximum sentences for the respective charges, per their statutes, range from five up to 20 years, although any eventual sentence should Trump be convicted would likely be much lower,” the outlet added.
An explosive report this week also speculated that Special Counsel Jack Smith may execute a “backup plan” if his case in Florida against Trump does not stick.
NYU Law Professors Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann published an op-ed in The Atlantic, where they speculate that if the classified documents case against Trump in Florida falls through, Smith could pursue charges of “dissemination of classified documents” in the state of New Jersey in an entirely separate indictment.
The report speculates that if the Florida judge were to delay the case proceedings after the 2024 presidential election, Smith could move ahead with charges in New Jersey — a Democrat stronghold that would likely not be favorable to Trump.