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Attorney General Garland defends special counsel's integrity in Trump indictment

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is pictured during a Justice Department event on May 24. On Wednesday, he defended the integrity of the special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Mandel Ngan
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AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is pictured during a Justice Department event on May 24. On Wednesday, he defended the integrity of the special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents after leaving office.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is defending his prosecutors and agents against rhetorical attacks from its most famous defendant, the former President Donald Trump.

Garland reiterated that he named a special counsel to lead the probe to ensure independence and accountability. He is standing behind special counsel Jack Smith even as the former president disparages him, accusing Smith and the Justice Department of political bias.

"Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law," Garland told reporters at an event focused on violent crime on Wednesday.

The attorney general said Smith, who once led the public integrity unit at the Justice Department, remains in charge of the case against Trump.

Trump faces a 37 count indictment for allegedly mishandling national security secrets and obstructing the federal probe. Trump pleaded not guilty at a Miami federal courthouse Tuesday. In recent public remarks, Trump has called Smith and his wife names, and decried what he describes as the "weaponization" of the Justice Department.

Former prosecutors and legal experts including Trump's former Attorney General Bill Barr said Smith and his team had assembled a mountain of evidence against Trump. The indictment describeshow Trump allegedly rebuffed efforts by the National Archives and the Justice Department to get him to return highly classified papers. The documents were kept in unsecure rooms at Mar-a-Lago and included attack plans and nuclear secrets, according to court filings.

Trump's allies in Congress this week have pledged to withhold funding for the FBI and to block Justice Department nominees from receiving votes in the Senate in the wake of the indictment.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.