Washington, D.C. – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 1, 2023
Contact: Edie Guy, Edie.Guy@mail.house.gov
At the request of Representative Anna Paulina Luna, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability is raising significant concerns regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation and prosecution strategies related to former President Donald J. Trump. The Committee is concerned that political motivations may corrupt the Justice Department’s impartiality, denying former President Trump his constitutional rights as an American citizen.
Today, the Committee released a letter signed by Representative Luna and Representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan outlining their concerns to Mr. Jack Smith, the Special Counsel leading the investigation into Mr. Trump.
The letter raises concerns that the prosecution of former President Trump may be part of a politically driven attempt to tarnish his reputation. This perspective is grounded in the observation that the Supreme Court has historically overturned criminal convictions based on overly broad interpretations of general criminal statutes. The Committee points out that the DOJ’s current approach against Mr. Trump seems to follow a similar, potentially flawed, legal rationale, particularly in using a general conspiracy statute to allege a conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The letter stresses that the Supreme Court has disapproved of such expansive interpretations in the past, as they can lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law.
Further complicating matters is the issue of the Special Counsel’s independence. On the one hand, Special Counsel Smith either had complete autonomy from Attorney General Garland, as he has purported to in his multiple prosecutions of former President Trump – such that he qualifies as a “principal officer” whose appointment must come from the President alone with the advice and consent of the Senate. Or, in the alternative, the DOJ must have exercised meaningful oversight of Special Counsel Smith as an “inferior officer” to ensure that his prosecutorial prerogatives were consistent with the admonishment of the Supreme Court in Kelly v. United States, 140 S. Ct. 1565 (2020) – a case in which the Court overturned one of these convictions relying on the overly broad use of a general conspiracy statute. As Special Counsel Smith was appointed without the advice or consent of the Senate, but instead by President Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Committee seeks to understand the Special Counsel’s conception of his own authority as Special Counsel to prosecute the offenses in the indictment against President Trump.
The Committee’s request for information includes documentation of the Special Counsel’s purported authority to impanel grand juries, offer immunity, and the extent of DOJ’s oversight over the Special Counsel’s decisions, specifically the decision to indict President Trump. This request is bolstered by the precedent in McGrain v. Daugherty, where the Supreme Court acknowledged Congress’s right to investigate the DOJ’s enforcement functions.
In closing, the Committee emphasizes the urgency and importance of a prompt response, setting a December 15, 2023 deadline.
They warn of potential compulsory measures should the Special Counsel fail to comply, underlining the gravity with which the Committee views this matter.
Representative Anna Paulina Luna released the following statement to accompany the letter:
“In his clear zeal for prosecuting President Trump, Special Counsel Smith may be relying on overly broad interpretations of general statutes and his appointment appears to be Constitutionally dubious to begin with. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Congress’s power and responsibility to conduct oversight of the Department of Justice’s enforcement functions, and as such we are requesting the Special Counsel Smith answer specific questions related to his purported authority and the manner in which he has conducted his business. The questions reflect our broader concern about the politicization of legal processes and the need for greater accountability and transparency in governmental actions, particularly in matters of such significant public interest.
If Special Counsel Smith fails to comply by the December 15th deadline, the Committee will have no choice but to compel his cooperation via subpoena.”