I know how zealous Jack Smith can be. Will Trump receive the same treatment?

Prosecutor Jack Smith appointed as special counsel to oversee the investigation into former President Donald Trump in The Hague on November 10, 2020.

Photo: Peter Dejong/AP

Jack Smith arrived after me. If he goes after Donald Trump with the same relentless brutality, Trump will be in trouble.

On Friday, Smith was appointed special counsel to lead two ongoing criminal investigations into Trump: the Mar-a-Lago dossier case and Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, including his role in the January 6, 2021 riot. research on US Capitol. Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Smith to oversee both cases to avoid accusations of political bias after Trump announced last week that he plans to run for president in 2024. Trump’s early announcement was clearly an attempt to insulate himself from prosecution, and Garland’s move appears to be counterintuitive. intended to frustrate the ex-president’s attempt to use the political system for his personal legal gain.

Smith, most recently a war crimes prosecutor in The Hague, is a longtime federal prosecutor known for his aggressiveness. Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department attorney who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump and Russia, said, “Steve Bannon (and many others) described me as a pit bull. he tweeted. “Jack Smith makes me look like a golden retriever puppy.”

Unfortunately, I have my own experience with Smith’s aggressiveness. He was part of the Justice Department team that overturned my life for seven years trying to force me to reveal the classified sources I used to report on a botched CIA operation.

The Justice Department first subpoenaed me in January 2008 to compel me to reveal my sources and continued to target me until January 2015. Even though the federal judge in my case ruled against them multiple times, the Department of Justice continued to refer me. I. Every time a judge threw out one of their subpoenas, I thought I was finally done — but then prosecutors would issue another one. It was unbearable.

Still, I refused to reveal my sources, and the Justice Department finally relented. I won the battle in 2015, but only after the case went to the Supreme Court, and only after then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors to back off because he was getting so much bad press that he wanted to jail a reporter for refusing to reveal his classified sources.

I know the prosecution team was outraged by Holder’s surrender order; they wanted to come after me.

Smith was involved in the leaking of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was accused of being a source on a botched CIA operation. Justice Department prosecutors have repeatedly targeted low-level officials in leak investigations, such as former NSA contractor Reality Winner, and sought stiff penalties against them. Instead, they have shown unusual leniency toward senior officials like former CIA director David Petraeus, many of whom were let off with a slap on the wrist during similar investigations.

With the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents, Smith must decide whether to pursue Trump with the same type of criminal charges that have been widely used in previous cases involving leaks of classified information.

Will Jack Smith give Trump the kid-glove treatment that other senior officials have long enjoyed?

The question for Smith is whether he will seek hard-hitting charges against the Justice Department, as has been sought in the Sterling v. Trump case and against many low-level officials in the past, or will he give Trump the kid-glove treatment of other high-ranking officials? – Are high-ranking officials happy for so long?

His decision on the Mar-a-Lago case will reveal whether Smith is truly an aggressive prosecutor, or aggressive against the powerless.

Of course, Smith may decide not to prosecute Trump in the dossier because he believes the laws governing the handling of classified information are too strict and no one, including low-level whistleblowers, should face such severe penalties. cases. But a career prosecutor is unlikely to change such a mass mind.

Smith will A big advantage over special counsel Robert Mueller in the long-running Trump-Russia case is that he is stepping into investigations that are already well underway and staffed with teams of career Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents. It should be easier for him to make quick decisions than Müller.

The case is a simple matter of the theft and mishandling of classified documents, as well as attempts to obstruct a federal investigation into their disappearance. The evidence seems overwhelming that Trump illegally stole classified documents after his presidency, then tried to obstruct investigations into the documents by hiding them, lying about them, and inciting others to lie on his behalf.

The biggest obstacle to a speedy resolution of the dossier case is Trump’s ongoing campaign to argue that he has special legal status as a former president, which prevents him from being prosecuted in the case. He and his attorneys have at various times tried to block government access to documents seized at Mar-a-Lago during the FBI’s court-warranted raid in August, claiming both executive and attorney-client privilege. He also said that he has full possession of the documents and that he has the right to keep them since he was the president.

But while Trump has won some favorable rulings from his federal district judge appointees, prosecutors have already been able to overturn some lower court rulings. Prosecutors on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court for a ruling that would end the role of a “special master” appointed by a district judge to review documents in the case. So it may not be long before legal maneuvering rages and Smith will have to decide whether to pursue.

The case surrounding Trump’s efforts to illegally nullify the 2020 election is more complicated than the dossier case that led to the January 6 uprising — still less complicated than the Trump-Russia investigation.

The Trump-Russia case concerned whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win, and whether Trump or anyone in his circle cooperated with Moscow in its meddling. Trump’s attempts to obstruct the investigation have also been a major focus for Mueller. But such a broad investigation involving a foreign country was too much for Mueller; He never acted aggressively to get information from Russia. Ultimately, he pulled his punches and refused to impeach the sitting president.

In contrast, Smith won’t have to seek information from a foreign challenger to prove his case for the 2020 election — and he won’t have to worry about impeaching a sitting president.

A key question for Smith in this case will be how to narrow the focus of the investigation to bring charges against Trump under one or more specific criminal statutes. So far, prosecutors have focused on the role Trump and others played in orchestrating the nomination of fraudulent presidential electors from key states that overturned Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.

But Smith may expand the investigation to include Trump’s involvement in the January 6 uprising. The Department of Justice has already filed seditious conspiracy cases against the right-wing militia leaders who participated in the uprising; Jury deliberations have begun in the sedition case against And Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others.

If he’s really aggressive, Smith could make similar accusations against Donald Trump.