Jack Smith: the Legal Eagle Chosen to Bell the Cat

Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by admin

Jack Smith
Jack Smith: the Man chosen to indict Donald Trump
When attorney Jack Smith got the call to spearhead the Justice Department’s investigations into Donald Trump, he was likely sipping coffee at his modest Dutch Colonial home in New York’s suburbs. Far removed from the political typhoon gathering in Washington, the prosecutor has maintained a low profile while still achieving high-stakes convictions against corrupt cops and human rights violators.

But after spending the last five years as chief prosecutor at the Hague – building cases against perpetrators of Balkan war crimes – Smith now reenters the American fray at a moment of deep divisions. Appointed as special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland, he’ll oversee probes into Trump’s hoarding of classified White House documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The Man

Colleagues describe the soft-spoken, publicity-shy Smith as the prototypical straight-arrow prosecutor. He oozes Midwestern earnestness, having grown up in the small town of Malvern nestled in Iowa’s rolling hills. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he cut his teeth as a junior prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office – joining the same public corruption unit where Rudy Giuliani once worked.

In those gritty early years of the 1990s, Smith took on mobsters, con artists and dirty city officials. He then ascended to lead the Justice Department’s public integrity section, where he secured prison sentences for crooked cops and politicians. There he earned a reputation as a principled, non-partisan operator.

His Background

When the Sept. 11 attacks plunged America into war, Smith answered the call for counterterrorism prosecutors. He was dispatched to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, serving as an American representative assisting with war crimes cases. There he embraced the methodical, detail-oriented investigatory approach – building document-heavy prosecutions piece by piece.

Smith’s reserved Midwestern temperament proved well-suited to smoothly navigating the ICC’s labyrinth of protocols. He earned praise for fairness in his eight years of service at the court. In 2019, Smith returned stateside but kept a foot planted in the Hague. He took over as chief prosecutor for the special court investigating Kosovo war crimes.

A Gentle Demeanor

Working far from media spotlights, Smith painstakingly constructed cases against senior Serb and Kosovar officials accused of persecuting ethnic groups. Earlier this year, he secured convictions against two former Kosovo leaders for witness intimidation, obstruction of justice and other charges. The courtroom victory cemented Smith’s reputation as a prosecutor who lets evidence, not politics or publicity, guide his approach.

Now entering the hypercharged atmosphere of Washington, Smith will likely lean on his understated Midwestern temperament to tune out partisan pressures. Friends say behind his reserved facade, he harbors a fierce belief in accountability and justice regardless of a subject’s power or politics.

To be sure, investigations centered on an ex-president represent unfamiliar terrain for a prosecutor more accustomed to Balkan warlords than the bombast of Trump rallies. But colleagues believe if anyone can follow the facts dispassionately, it’s the unflappable and scrupulously ethical Smith.

No Escaping the High-wire Political Act

Of course, the special counsel role still thrusts Smith into a high-wire political act. He must steer clear of leaks, perceived biases and other pitfalls while upholding justice and keeping the public informed. For Smith, who has studiously avoided press attention, maintaining independence amid toxic partisanship poses a challenge.

Yet the prosecutor’s discipline and rectitude evoke comparisons to Robert Mueller, the no-nonsense former Marine and FBI director who methodically chronicled the Trump campaign’s Russia ties. While perhaps not cinematic material, Smith seems primed to write the next steady, surgical chapter of the fact-finding drama still unfolding around the Trump investigations.

Still, Focussed on Law, not Politics

For all the partisan storms swirling, Smith remains fixed on the law, not politics. If his pedigree holds, the prosecutor will follow the evidence wherever it leads without fear or favor. Like his fellow terse Midwesterner Mueller before him, Smith now takes up the mantle of special counsel under intense scrutiny. But those who know the prosecutor expect he will, as always, speak through his work – not soundbites or tweets.


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