Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland named former DOJ official Jack Smith to lead a special counsel tasked with investigating President Trump. Smith will investigate whether Trump or any person illegally interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 election and whether Trump illegally possessed documents that were seized during the now-infamous FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago in August.
However, Smith has a checkered career that includes playing a role in the Obama-era IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, and he drew a severe rebuke from the Supreme Court over a Smith-led prosecution of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Smith—who was, until recently, a war crimes prosecutor in The Hague— was the chief of the DOJ public integrity section during the Obama administration when he arranged a meeting with IRS official Louis Lerner that led to the tax agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups, AP reported.
In 2014, the House Oversight Committee investigated the scandal and implicated Smith in the affair. The Oversight Committee obtained testimony from a DOJ official named Richard Pilger that showed Smith set up a meeting with Lerner to discuss more aggressive enforcement of regulations prohibiting tax-exempt groups from engaging in politics.
According to Just the News, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to the DOJ which stated the following:
“According to Mr. Pilger, the Justice Department convened a meeting with former IRS official Lois Lerner in October 2010 to discuss how the IRS could assist in the criminal enforcement of campaign-finance laws against politically active nonprofits. This meeting was arranged at the direction of Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith.”
A Treasury Department inspector general report later concluded, “The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”
Then, in 2015, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to Jack Smith and the DOJ over his section’s prosecution of then- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Just the News reported, “his [Smith] section proceeded with the prosecution of then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, securing a jury conviction on 11 felony counts alleging the GOP governor’s family accepted gifts in return for official public acts. But the Supreme Court reversed the conviction in a stunning loss for DOJ, concluding that the definition of public acts used by Smith’s team was unconstitutional and exceeded the definition in the bribery statutes.”
In a stunning condemnation of Smith’s prosecution, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the following:
“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this Court. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The eyes of the political world will now be on Jack Smith as he takes over as special counsel.