Merrick Garland's challenge: ensuring DOJ's independence as special counsel takes up Trump inquiries

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Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco arrive to deliver remarks at the U.S. Justice Department on Friday in Washington, D.C. Garland appointed Jack Smith to be special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump and his handling of classified documents and actions before the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

From the start, Merrick Garland’s tenure as attorney general has been defined by dual missions: managing the largest U.S. criminal investigation following the deadly Capitol attack while restoring the independence of a Justice Department badly compromised by Donald Trump’s White House.

The two daunting tasks converged in sharp relief Friday when Garland appointed a special counsel, longtime federal prosecutor Jack Smith, to oversee multi-faceted criminal investigations that now imperil former president.

Garland’s action, triggered in part by Trump’s new presidential bid announced three days earlier, represents a reckoning with a political reality that has shadowed Justice’s inquiries into Trump’s conduct. 

More:AG Merrick Garland appoints special counsel to oversee Trump criminal investigations

More:Who is Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed to lead Trump investigations?

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