To no one’s surprise, Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special prosecutor, Jack Smith, to investigate former President Donald Trump. You might think that you’ve seen this movie before. But there’s little reason to think this will be a repeat of the Robert Mueller investigation that declined to bring charges against Trump. Charges are more likely this time around — though that doesn’t guarantee they will stick.
Remember how worried we were about whether special counsel Mueller would be fired? And remember how then-Attorney General William Barr subverted Mueller’s report by misrepresenting its contents in advance of its release?
GARLAND is no Barr. He will respect the special counsel’s independence. It would be almost impossible for him to insist on prosecution if Smith judged it inappropriate. And it would be astonishing if he blocked charges that Smith wanted to bring. Either method of contravening the special prosecutor would politicize the prosecution decision. Garland’s whole emphasis at the Department of Justice has been to restore the department to its traditional (and desirable) status as nonpartisan.