Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
- U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel Nov. 18, 2022, to lead two investigations: the handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago and whether anyone illegally interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election.
Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump, has a decades long prosecution record, including high-profile public corruption cases.
"Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle of the Department of Justice," Smith said June 9 after Trump was indicted on 37 counts, including charges of willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements. "And our nation's commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world. We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone applying those laws, collecting facts, that's what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more, nothing less."
Trump is expected June 13 at a federal court in Miami.
U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel Nov. 18, 2022, to lead two investigations: the handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago and whether anyone illegally interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election.
Garland at the time said he was appointing a special prosecutor because of Trump’s announcement that he was running for president, and Joe Biden’s expected re-election campaign. (Garland named a separate special counsel to oversee an investigation of documents found at Biden’s home and office.)
Trump’s campaign has tried to discredit Smith, claiming that he "has a history of failed prosecutions & seriously flawed cases." Smith oversaw prosecutions that did not result in convictions or were overturned, but that’s not unheard of in public corruption cases.
Here’s some background about Smith’s work history, including some high-profile cases.
Smith began his career in the 1990s as a prosecutor in the New York County district attorney's office. He later served as chief of criminal litigation and in other capacities at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
From 2008 to 2010, Smith served as an investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He supervised investigations of foreign government officials and militia for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
From 2010 to 2015, Smith supervised the litigation of complex public corruption cases nationwide for the Justice Department.
In 2015, Smith was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. He later worked at Hospital Corporation of America, a health care company and hospital operator. He also was a specialist prosecutor for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which has a seat in The Hague. The office, established after an international agreement, has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law.
Smith graduated from Harvard Law School and the State University of New York at Oneonta and has received numerous awards from the Justice Department and bar associations.
Reuters reported that Smith is not registered with any political party.
During his Justice Department tenure in the early 2010s, Smith would have been closely involved in charging decisions, said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in southern Florida. Prosecutors have to assess the probability that they can get a conviction; some are "characteristically cautious, some are more aggressive," he said.
Smith’s record "shows an aggressive approach, although one clearly devoid of any partisanship," Coffey said.
Prosecutors should not be judged by a singular "wins and losses" standard, said Steve Friedland, a former federal prosecutor who is now an Elon University law professor.
"It is more complex than that," Friedland said. It is the prosecutors’ job to represent the people and pursue cases following laws enacted by public officials.
"Given the high burden of proof — beyond a reasonable doubt — prosecutors should not obtain convictions all of the time," Friedland said. "Nor should they even prosecute the same way, if at all, every time they can; that is why prosecutorial discretion is so important."
Below are some high-profile cases Smith pursued.
Conviction of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: In 2014, a federal jury convicted McDonnell of 11 counts, including "honest services" fraud, extortion and conspiracy. McDonnell and his wife participated in a scheme to solicit and obtain loans and gifts from a Virginia corporation exceeding $170,000.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction unanimously in 2016. Chief Justice John Roberts said the government used a "boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute."
Indictment of former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.: In 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Edwards in a scheme to violate federal campaign finance laws.
Prosecutors said that Edwards, during his 2008 presidential campaign, conspired with other people to receive campaign contributions that exceeded federal limits to avoid disclosure of an affair and a resulting pregnancy.
In 2012, a jury found him not guilty on one count related to accepting illegal contributions and deadlocked on the other five charges, resulting in a mistrial. The Justice Department declined to retry the case.
Indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.: In 2015, Menendez was indicted along with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, for allegedly accepting gifts from Melgen in exchange for using his Senate office’s power to benefit Melgen’s financial and personal interests. An 11-week trial in 2017 ended in a hung jury, and the Justice Department declined to retry the case.
Conviction of former Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.: Renzi, a congressman from Arizona from 2003 to 2009, was convicted in 2013 by a federal jury of 17 felony offenses related to conspiring to extort and bribe people seeking a federal land exchange. Renzi was sentenced to three years in prison. Trump pardoned Renzi. The pardon doesn’t mean the prosecution was flawed.
PolitiFact Staff Writer Sevana Wenn and Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed research.
United States v Trump and Waltine Nauta, Indictment, June 8, 2023
U.S. Justice Department, Former Virginia governor and former first lady convicted on public corruption charges, Sept. 4, 2014
U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. McDonnell, June 27, 2016
Politico, Supreme Court overturns Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions, 2018
The New York Times, At Justice Department, a Watchdog on Graft Finds Its Teeth Again, April 1, 2014
The New York Times, Who is Jack Smith, the special counsel who indicted Trump? June 8, 2023
U.S. Justice Department, Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards charged for alleged role in scheme to violate federal campaign finance laws, June 3, 2011
U.S. Attorneys Office Middle District of Tennessee, Jack Smith, April 14, 2015
Kosovo Special Chambers, Press release about Jack Smith, May 7, 2018
Reuters, Who is Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Trump documents case? June 9, 2023
CNN, Justice Dept. won’t retry Sen. Bob Menendez, Jan. 31, 2018
U.S. Department of Justice, Former Congressman Richard G. Renzi convicted of extortion and bribery in illegal federal land swap, June 11, 2013
U.S. Department of Justice, Former Congressman Richard G. Renzi sentenced for extortion and bribery in illegal federal land swap, Oct. 18, 2013
PolitiFact, Maddow claims Palin got zero support for her idea, only it wasn't hers, and others supported it, April 10, 2009
Telephone interview, Kendall Coffey, former U.S. Attorney in Miami and lawyer at Coffey Burlington, June 9, 2023
Email interview, Steve Friedland, senior scholar and director of the Center for Engaged Learning in Law at Elon University School of Law, June 9, 2023