On Thursday, after the third revelation in a week about classified documents found in the office or home of President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he is appointing a special counsel to investigate the matter.
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“I am here today to announce the appointment of Robert Hur as a Special Counsel, pursuant to Department of Justice regulations governing such matters. In keeping with those regulations, I have today notified the designated members of each House of Congress of the appointment,” Garland announced in his remarks Thursday.
Investigative Counsel Appointed
John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, had previously been looking into the documents. After the second disclosure, Lausch informed Garland that “further investigation by a Special Counsel was warranted.”
“Earlier today, I signed an order appointing Robert Hur as Special Counsel for the matter I have just described,” the attorney general said. “The document [order] authorizes him to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter. The Special Counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department, but he must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the Department.”
Hur has worked for the Justice Department since 2003 and spent seven years as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. Be became Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in 2017 and became U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland the following year.
The White House has said it will cooperate fully with the probe, per The New York Times.
The Times also looked at the differences between the Donald Trump and Biden documents cases.
“The circumstances in the Biden and Trump cases are markedly different. Mr. Trump resisted requests to return documents for months, even after being subpoenaed, while as far as is known, Mr. Biden’s lawyers found the papers without being asked and turned them over promptly,” the newspaper said. “But as a political matter, the new investigation will muddy the case against Mr. Trump, who is already using it to argue that he is being selectively persecuted by the administration of a president he plans to challenge in 2024.”
The Times also noted that with the exception of Barack Obama, every president since Watergate has dealt with at least one special prosecutor investigation. Some of them, like Kenneth Starr during the Clinton Administration, were independent counsels rather than special counsels. That was due to a post-Watergate law after Nixon fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, but the independent counsel statute expired in 1999.
Non-Partisan Investigative Counsel
Hur actually replaced Rod Rosenstein, a major figure in Trump-era investigations, as U.S. Attorney for Maryland, and worked with Rosenstein on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 Russia intervention. He also served as counsel to Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, when Wray was in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
According to an AP description, Hur has worked for and been appointed by both Democrats and Republicans, and former President Trump appointed him U.S. Attorney.
“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment,” Hur himself said in a statement that was reported by the Times. “I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service.”
Hur is a graduate of Harvard and Stanford Law School, and when not serving in government he has worked for major law firms, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In his firm bio, he is described as “a seasoned trial lawyer and advocate, he brings decades of experience in government and in private practice, including service in senior leadership positions with the U.S. Department of Justice, to guide companies and individuals facing white-collar criminal matters, regulatory proceedings and enforcement actions, internal investigations, and related civil litigation.”
He joins Jack Smith, who was appointed last year, by Garland, as special counsel, in order to lead both Trump’s own classified documents investigation and any potential charges related to the January 6 insurrection and the former president’s role in it.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.