Trump special counsel appointment signals DOJ belief in a ‘viable potential case’

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Sunday said the appointment of a special counsel to oversee federal investigations into former President Trump indicates the Department of Justice (DOJ) still believes it has a “viable potential case” against him.

Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” that he can’t “second guess” Attorney General Merrick Garland’s appointment of a special counsel from the outside.

“I think what it indicates is that, despite the fact that the department has been at this for some time, almost two years on the Jan. 6 investigation, close to a year on the Mar-a-Lago investigation, that they still believe that they have a viable potential case,” Rosenstein said.

“It doesn’t mean they made a decision to go forward,” he added. “But it certainly is an indication they believe it’s a possibility.”

Garland on Friday appointed longtime prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee investigations into whether any person unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack and the alleged mishandling of sensitive government records at Mar-a-Lago.

The announcement came days after Trump formally entered the 2024 presidential contest, and Garland also cited President Biden’s stated intent to run for reelection as reason to appoint the semi-independent special counsel.

“It’s easy to second guess from outside,” Rosenstein said on CBS. “I think my inclination, given the investigation has been gone for some time and given the stage which they’ve reached, is that I probably would not have, but I just can’t tell from the outside.”

The appointment gives Smith some autonomy over the future of the two investigations, but he still reports to the attorney general.

“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity,” Garland said on Friday. “And I also believe that appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.”

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