Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor, to be special counsel to take over two Department of Justice investigations into Trump in November. Smith accepted the appointment but was initially held back at The Hague in the Netherlands as he recovered from a biking accident.
He has since returned to the United States weeks after his appointment. His exact return date is unclear as the Justice Department has not officially announced his return to the country, according to The Washington Post. People familiar with Smith’s travels told the Post that Smith had been back in the U.S. “for some time.”
Garland appointed Smith to be special counsel after Trump announced his third run for president at an event at Mar-a-Lago in November.
“The department of Justice has long recognized that in certain, extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution,” Garland said. “Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president’s intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public’s interest to appoint a special counsel.”
“Appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it. Mr. Smith is the right choice to complete these matters in an even handed and urgent manner,” he added.
Trump is facing potential criminal prosecution over two investigations from the DOJ. The investigation related to the events of January 6 is over whether Trump incited an insurrection or otherwise attempted to unlawfully interfere with the certification of the 2020 election. That investigation has produced hundreds of prosecutions against protesters who entered the U.S. Capitol.
Trump is also being investigated over a trove of documents the FBI recovered in an August raid on Mar-a-Lago. Trump faces potential charges related to the holding of those documents as well as potential obstruction of a federal investigation, according to Garland.
As special counsel, Smith will decide whether Trump faces any charges related to either investigation.