HomePoliticsAs investigations mount, justice system dedicates resources to scrutinizing Trump - UnlistedNews

As investigations mount, justice system dedicates resources to scrutinizing Trump – UnlistedNews

Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing criminal investigations into former President Donald J. Trump, employs 40 to 60 career prosecutors, paralegals and support staff, plus a rotating cast of FBI agents and technical specialists, according to people familiar with the situation.

In his first four months on the job, beginning in November, Mr. Smith’s investigation incurred $9.2 million in expenses. That included $1.9 million to pay the US Marshals Service to protect Mr. Smith, his family and other investigators who have faced threats after the former president and his allies singled them out on social media.

At this rate, the special counsel is on track to spend about $25 million a year.

The main driver of all these efforts and their attendant expenses is Mr. Trump’s own behavior: his unwillingness to accept the results of an election as all his predecessors have, his refusal to heed the advice of his own lawyers and a grand jury order to return government documents, and his attack on prosecutors on personal terms.

Even the $25 million figure only begins to capture the full scale of resources devoted by federal, state, and local officials to address Mr. Trump’s behavior before, during, and after his presidency. While full statistics are not available, Justice Department officials have long said the effort to prosecute pro-Trump mob members who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 is the largest investigation in its history. That line of inquiry is just one of many criminal and civil efforts underway to hold Trump and his allies to account.

As the department and prosecutors in New York and Georgia move to indict Trump, the current Republican presidential front-runner, the scope of their work, in terms of quantifiable costs, becomes increasingly clear.

These efforts, taken together, do not appear to be diverting resources that would otherwise be used to fight crime or undertake other investigations. But the agencies are paying what one official called a “Trump tax,” forcing leaders to spend disproportionate time and energy on the former president and fending off his unsubstantiated claims that they are going after him at the expense of public safety.

In an increasingly polarized political environment as the 2024 presidential race takes shape, Republicans have turned the scale of the federal investigation of Trump and his associates into a problem unto itself. Earlier this month, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee questioned FBI Director Christopher A. Wray about the scale of the investigations and suggested they might block the reauthorization of a warrantless surveillance program used to investigate multiple people suspected of involvement in the Jan. 6 rape or oppose funding for the bureau’s new headquarters.

“What Jack Smith is doing is actually pretty cheap considering the momentous nature of the charges,” said Timothy J. Heaphy, a former federal prosecutor who served as a lead investigator for the House committee that investigated the Capitol assault.

The “biggest cost” is likely to be the damage inflicted by the incessant attacks on the department, which could be “incalculable,” he added.

At the height of the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute and charge the January 6 rioters, many US attorney’s offices and the FBI’s 56 field offices had officers looking for leads. At one point, more than 600 officers and office support staff were assigned to riot cases, authorities said.

In Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani T. Willis, a Democrat, has spent nearly two years conducting an extensive investigation into election interference. The office has assigned about 10 of its 370 employees to the election case, including prosecutors, investigators and paralegals, according to officials.

Authorities in Michigan and Arizona are examining Republicans who tried to pose as Electoral College electors in states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020.

Despite their complexity and historical significance, the Trump-related prosecutions have not significantly curtailed the ability of prosecutors to carry out their regular duties or force them to abandon other types of cases, officials in all those jurisdictions have repeatedly said.

In Manhattan, where Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with his alleged attempts to suppress reports of an affair with a pornographic actress, the number of assistant district attorneys assigned to the case is in the single digits, according to officials.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from accusing District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, of diverting resources that could have gone to combat street crime. In fact, the division responsible for filing the case was the financial crimes unit, and the office has about 500 other prosecutors who are not involved in the investigation.

“Instead of stopping the unprecedented crime wave gripping New York City, you are doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders, robberies and assaults he should be focusing on,” Trump wrote on the day he was impeached in March. “This is how Bragg spends his time!”

Trump pursued a similar line of attack against New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has sued the former president and his family business, accusing them of fraud. (Local prosecutors, not the state, are responsible for bringing charges against most violent criminals.)

The Justice Department, which includes the FBI and US marshals, is a sprawling organization with an annual budget of about $40 billion, and it has more than enough staff to absorb the diversion of key prosecutors, including the head of its counterintelligence division, Jay Bratt, to special counsel investigations, authorities said.

The vast majority of Mr. Smith’s staff members were already assigned to those cases before he was appointed, simply moving their offices across town to work with him. Department officials have stressed that roughly half of the special counsel’s expenses would have been paid, in the form of staff salaries, had the department never investigated Trump.

That’s not to say the department hasn’t been under enormous pressure after the 2020 election and the attack on the Capitol.

The US attorney’s office in Washington, which has brought more than 1,000 cases against the January 6 protesters, initially struggled to handle the mountain of evidence, including thousands of hours of video, tens of thousands of tips from private citizens and hundreds of thousands of pages of investigative documents. But the office created an internal information management system, at a cost of millions of dollars, to organize one of the largest collections of discovery evidence ever assembled by federal investigators.

Prosecutors from US attorney’s offices across the country have been called in to help their colleagues in Washington. Federal defenders’ offices in other cities also pitched in, helping the overwhelmed Washington office represent defendants charged in connection with Jan. 6.

“If you combine the Trump investigation with the January 6 indictments, you can say that he has really had an impact on the internal machinations of the department,” said Anthony D. Coley, who served as chief spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland until earlier this year. “It didn’t impede the department’s ability to carry out its work, but there was definitely a situation where prosecutors rushed in from across the country to help.”

While the FBI’s Washington field office is in charge of the investigation of the Capitol attack, the defendants have been arrested in all 50 states. Assembling those cases and apprehending the suspects has required the help of countless agents in field offices across the country.

The office has not publicly disclosed the number of agents specifically assigned to investigations into Trump, but people familiar with the situation have said the number is substantial but comparatively much smaller. They include agents who oversaw the search for the former president’s Mar-a-Lago property and worked on various aspects of the Jan. 6 case; and office attorneys who often play critical and discreet roles in investigations.

A substantial percentage of those working on both cases are FBI agents. In a letter to House Republicans in June, Carlos Uriarte, the department’s director of legislative affairs, revealed that Mr. Smith employed about 26 special agents, with additional agents “from time to time” being hired for specific tasks related to investigations.

In terms of spending, Mr. Smith’s work far exceeds that of Mr. Garland’s other appointed special counsel, Robert K. Hur, who is investigating President Biden’s handling of classified documents after he left the vice presidency. Mr. Hur has spent about $1.2 million since his January-March appointment, at a rate of $5.6 million in annual spending.

An analysis of the salary data in the report suggests that Hur is operating with a considerably smaller staff than Smith, perhaps 10 to 20 people, some newly hired, others transferred from the US attorney’s office in Chicago, which launched the investigation.

For now, the two cases do not appear to be comparable in scope or severity. Unlike Trump, Biden returned all government documents in his possession shortly after finding them, and Hur’s staff have no other lines of inquiry.

A more apt comparison is Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, which resulted in the decision not to indict Trump.

semi-annual reports filed by Mr. Mueller’s office are roughly in line, if slightly less so, than Mr. Smith’s first report, counting about $8.5 million in expenses.

Jonas E. Bromwich contributed reporting from New York, and danny hakim from atlanta


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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