Merrick Garland defended special counsel Jack Smith’s integrity in his first public remarks over Donald Trump’s indictment even as the former president alleged the Justice Department has been “weaponised”.
The attorney general on Wednesday reiterated that he had named Mr Smith as the special counsel to lead the investigations and ensure “independence and accountability”.
“As I said when I appointed Mr Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability,” Mr Garland said on the former president’s indictment.
“Mr Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity. Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by their filings in court.”
Mr Trump faces a 37-count indictment for allegedly mishandling national security secrets and obstructing the federal probe.
He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in a Miami federal courthouse on Wednesday and later attacked the Justice Department and the special counsel in a speech at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club.
“Today we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country. Very sad thing to watch,” Mr Trump said.
He accused Mr Smith of “doing political hit jobs” and labelled him a “thug”.
Last week, Mr Smith issued a statement defending his team.
“The prosecutors in my office are among the most talented and experienced in the Department of Justice. They have investigated this case hewing to the highest ethical standards. And they will continue to do so as this case proceeds,” he said.
“The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our armed forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people,” he further said.
“Our laws that protect national defence information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced. Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump fundraised for his presidential run a day after his arraignment and raked in over $7m, according to his campaign.
“The American people will not stand for this corrupt attempt to interfere in the 2024 election against the leading candidate for President who will demolish the Deep State and finish the job of draining the Swamp,” Mr Trump’s spokesperson Liz Harrington said in a Wednesday statement.