Who is US special counsel Jack Smith?

The man behind two Donald Trump indictments has 'one set of laws and they apply to everyone'

Jack Smith speaks after Donald Trump was indicted over his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Bloomberg
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Donald Trump faces two federal criminal cases as legal peril continues to build for the former president in his bid to return to the White House.

He faces 40 charges in his home state of Florida, including the mishandling classified documents and destroying an object in connection to the case.

He was dealt a further legal blow after being charged in his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

In that case, Mr Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.

The man behind both indictments is special counsel Jack Smith.

Who is Jack Smith?

Appointed last November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over two Justice Department investigations involving Mr Trump, Mr Smith has made history as the first federal prosecutor to secure an indictment against a current or former US president.

Mr Smith has earned a reputation for winning tough cases against war criminals, mobsters and crooked cops.

Former colleagues described him as just as tenacious in seeking to have criminal charges dropped for the innocent as he is to win convictions of the guilty.

“If the case is prosecutable, he will do it,” Mark Lesko, a lawyer at the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP who worked with Mr Smith when both were federal prosecutors in New York, told Reuters. “He is fearless.”

The cases are unlike any other that Mr Smith has brought because of who is being charged.

Mr Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021 and is now seeking to return to the White House, leading a crowded field of candidates seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Mob boss prosecutor

Mr Smith, a Harvard Law School graduate who is not registered with any political party, started as a prosecutor in 1994 at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office under Robert Morgenthau, who was best known for prosecuting mob bosses.

“There was just a real emphasis, from Morgenthau on down, on not just going after convictions,” Todd Harrison, a lawyer at the firm McDermott Will & Emery who worked with Mr Smith, told Reuters.

Mr Smith was involved in the prosecution of Charles Schwarz, one of several former New York City police officers who were implicated in a high-profile police brutality case involving Abner Louima, a jailed black inmate who had been assaulted by police with a broomstick.

He also won a murder conviction against Ronell Wilson, a drug gang leader who murdered two undercover New York City police officers, though a federal appeals court vacated the death penalty verdict.

In 2008, Mr Smith left to supervise war crime prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He returned to the Justice Department in 2010 to head its Public Integrity Section until 2015.

What does Donald Trump think of Mr Smith?

The former president has taken to his Truth Social platform to attack Mr Smith and his credentials, calling the special counsel a “deranged lunatic” and blasting him for his involvement in a much-criticised Internal Revenue Service investigation of conservative non-profit groups.

He also says, without evidence, that the cases against him are efforts by the Justice Department to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.

Updated: August 02, 2023, 12:33 PM