The Justice Department hopes to reach a decision on whether to bring charges against former President Trump before the 2024 campaign heats up, and is considering appointing a special counsel to oversee investigations of him if he runs again, the New York Times reports. The department is investigating Trump’s role in the efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and his retention of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort in Florida. The inquiry into the former president’s handling of the documents is more straightforward, with prosecutors having publicly cited potential crimes that could be charged. Senior department officials and veteran prosecutors in the DOJ national security division have spent recent weeks assessing the thorny issues needed to file charges in the documents investigation.
The investigation, while proceeding quickly by Justice Department standards, has been slowed by Trump’s efforts in court to restrict the government’s access to the files removed from his home, and by the department’s self-imposed 30-day pause in issuing subpoenas before the midterm elections. Some former officials and legal experts said the appointment of a special counsel would give Attorney General Merrick Garland an opportunity to choose a lawyer to counter charges of a political witch hunt. Garland “needs to have a lawyer with Republican pedigree on that team to send the message that this is not a political persecution,” said John Fishwick, a former U.S. Attorney in Virginia. “This is the most important criminal case in our country’s history. Ultimately, every person in the United States will be the jury in this case, and they will need to have confidence that the prosecution team reflects all of them."