Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in November 2022 that Jack Smith would be the special counsel overseeing the criminal investigations into the retention of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Smith is a long-time prosecutor who has overseen a variety of high-profile cases during a career that spans decades. His experience ranges from prosecuting a sitting US senator to bringing cases against gang members who were ultimately convicted of murdering New York City police officers. In recent years, Smith has prosecuted war crimes at The Hague. His career in multiple parts of the Justice Department, as well as in international courts, has allowed him to keep a relatively low-profile in the oftentimes brassy legal industry.
In a statement following his announcement, Smith pledged to conduct the investigations “independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
A career prosecutor: Smith began his career as an assistant district attorney with the New York County District Attorney’s Office in 1994. He worked in the Eastern District of New York in 1999 as an assistant US attorney, where he prosecuted cases including civil rights violations and police officers murdered by gangs, according to the Justice Department.
As a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, one of Smith’s biggest and most high-profile cases was prosecuting gang member Ronell Wilson for the murder of two New York City police department detectives during an undercover gun operation in Staten Island.
Wilson was convicted and sentenced to death, the first death penalty case in New York at the time in 50 years, though a judge later found he was ineligible for the death penalty.
Moe Fodeman, who worked with Smith at EDNY, called him “one of the best trial lawyers I have ever seen.”
“He is a phenomenal investigator; he leaves no stone unturned. He drills down to get to the true facts,” Fodeman said.
Fodeman, who is still friends with Smith, said he is a “literally insane” cyclist and triathlete.
Beginning in 2008, Smith worked for the International Criminal Court and oversaw war crimes investigations under the Office of the Prosecutor for two years.
In 2010, he became chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, where he oversaw litigation of public corruption cases. Lanny Breuer, the former assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Criminal Division who recruited Smith, said his onetime employee was “a terrific prosecutor” with a “real sense of fairness.”
Read more about his career here.