Newly appointed special counsel Jack Smith continues to work remotely from Europe as he assembles a team, finds office space and takes over two high-stakes investigations into former president Trump, complex cases that officials insist will not be delayed by Smith’s appointment, even as they said they do not know when he will return to the U.S., reports the Washington Post. Smith, a war crimes prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, was tapped to assume control over Justice Department investigations into Trump’s role in efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election and the investigation into possible mishandling of national defense secrets at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club. Months after Trump left the White House, more than 300 classified documents were recovered. Attorney General Merrick Garland said it was in the public interest to put a special counsel in charge of the cases, to avoid a perceived conflict as Trump launches his 2024 presidential campaign and President Biden says he will run as well.
Garland and Smith have both vowed that the appointment of a special counsel will not slow the work in either case, and Smith has already become involved from the Netherlands. A court filing Monday said Smith has reviewed arguments in a months-long court fight between the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers over papers seized in the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago. A panel of federal appeals court judges in Atlanta is set to hear arguments Tuesday over whether a federal judge was right to appoint an outside legal expert known as a special master to review most of those documents. Mary McCord, a former DOJ national security official, said she does not expect political appointees to work in the special counsel office, though career prosecutors could continue on the case. Eventually, the Justice Department may have to make key personnel decisions to decide which career employees will move over to work on the special counsel team.