Even before Trump’s announcement, Justice Department officials discussed appointing a special counsel to take over investigations related to Trump, such as the Mar-a-Lago affair or efforts to keep Joe Biden from taking office, according to people familiar with the matter. presidency after the 2020 election — if Trump formally declared himself the nominee, people familiar with the matter said.
Many other political candidates were investigated while running for office without the appointment of a special counsel, including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent. An FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server for government affairs began in mid-2015. , which continued throughout the primary, was shut down just before the nominating meeting and then publicly reopened less than two weeks before Election Day.
But some legal experts had called for a special counsel to be brought in to take over the investigation, which has intensified in recent months as investigators interviewed key witnesses and secured key video surveillance and other evidence.
The status of major investigations involving Donald Trump
Justice Department rules say the attorney general will “appoint” a special counsel, essentially a prosecutor chosen specifically for a criminal investigation, if the case meets several criteria, specifically: that the investigation is justified in a way that creates a conflict of interest. Department of Justice “or other extraordinary circumstances” and that under the circumstances “it would be in the public interest” to appoint a special counsel to handle the case.
Crucially, the special counsel would still report to the attorney general, who would have ultimate authority over evidence.
Garland made the point earlier this year when asked in a Senate hearing why he had not appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, who is at the center of a long-running investigation into his business dealings and taxes.
“It’s a determination of the fact and the law on a case-by-case basis,” Garland told lawmakers, adding that the special counsels “are also employees of the Department of Justice” — meaning they still report to the attorney general.
This is a story about development. It will be updated.