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Trump Probe Prosecutor Is Veteran of Corruption, War Crimes Cases

Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at the Department of Justice in Washington.
Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at the Department of Justice in Washington.

Jack Smith, the federal prosecutor who on Tuesday charged Donald Trump with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, is a seasoned American lawyer who has led Kosovo war crimes probes in The Hague.

In November 2022, shortly after Trump announced another White House bid, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Smith to oversee two independent investigations into the former president, saying that he had "built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor."

More than eight months later, Smith has charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States and attempting to obstruct certification of his rival Joe Biden's 2020 election victory - seismic accusations against a former U.S. leader.

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The accusations come on top of separate felony charges Smith brought against Trump over claims he criminally retained classified documents after leaving office and conspired to obstruct the probe.

Prior to his becoming the face of the fiercely divisive Trump cases, Smith spent many years at the Department of Justice and more recently in international tribunals.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Smith began his prosecutorial career in the 1990s.

He boasts a resume that includes several years at the Justice Department in multiple positions, including chief of the agency's Public Integrity Section, where he led a team handling corruption and election crimes cases, and later acting U.S. attorney for the middle district of Tennessee.

From 2008 to 2010, he served as an investigator for the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, where he was charged with supervising sensitive probes of foreign government officials over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

His most high-profile work prior to the Trump probe occurred at the special court on Kosovo in The Hague, where he led investigations and adjudications of war crimes committed in the Balkan republic during the 1990s wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia.


In 2018, Smith was named chief prosecutor of the court, known as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

It opened its first trial in 2021 against former rebel commander Salih Mustafa, who was convicted the following year of murder and torture related to his time at a makeshift jail operated by the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Smith described the case as a "milestone" for the court, whose activities remain highly sensitive given that former rebel commanders still dominate political life in Kosovo.

The court, which operates under Kosovo law but is based in Netherlands to shield witnesses from intimidation, has issued war crimes charges against several senior members of the KLA, including former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci.

After being appointed special counsel by Garland, Smith pledged to work "independently" and to "move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate."

On Tuesday, he said his office would seek a "speedy" trial for Trump "so that our evidence can be tested in court and judged by a jury of citizens."

And, while asserting Trump remained innocent until proven guilty, he said that an attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, by the former president's supporters was "fueled by lies - lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing" certification of Biden's victory.

The earlier indictment over the classified documents had sparked outrage among Republicans, but in his first comments after it was unsealed in June, Smith underlined that the United States has "one set of laws ... and they apply to everyone."

"Laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced," he added.