Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate as well as key aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.
The move, which is being announced just three days after Trump formally launched his 2024 candidacy, is a recognition of the unmistakable political implications of two investigations that involve not only a former president but also a current White House hopeful.
Though the appointment installs a new supervisor atop the probes — both of which are expected to accelerate now that the midterm elections are complete — the special counsel will still report to Garland, who has ultimate say of whether to bring charges.
A senior Justice Department official disclosed the appointment on Friday but did not reveal the identity of the special counsel. Garland was expected to provide more details later in the afternoon.
Representatives for Trump, a Republican, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
There was no immediate reason provided for the decision or for its timing. Garland has spoken repeatedly of his singular focus on the facts, the evidence and the law in the Justice Department’s decision-making and of his determination to restore political independence to the agency following the tumultuous years of the Trump administration.
And there does not seem to be an obvious conflict like the one that prompted the last appointment of a special counsel to handle Trump-related investigations. The Trump Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.