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Jack Smith, special counsel in classified documents case, defends his work

Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment against former President Donald Trump on Friday.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment against former President Donald Trump on Friday.

Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith gave a rare public statement on Friday after federal officials unsealed an indictment against former President Donald Trump.

In remarks that lasted roughly 2 minutes, Smith framed the indictment as an important step for keeping the United States safe and protecting democracy.

"We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone," Smith said. "Adhering to and applying the laws is what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more, nothing less."

Smith said his office would avoid speaking publicly about the case moving forward in order to retain its impartiality amid heated political attacks. Attorney General Merrick Garland was not present in the room, and Smith exited the stage without taking questions from reporters.

Georgetown Law professor Paul Butler, who previously worked with Smith in the DOJ unit that prosecutes public corruption, said Smith's presentation Friday fits his reputation.

"[Smith] did kind of what the Company Man would do: He let the indictment speak for himself," Butler told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. "He's known as being an aggressive prosecutor, kind of a true believer in holding people accountable, and especially in bringing corrupt public officials to justice."

Smith most recently worked at the International Criminal Court investigating and prosecuting war crimes. He is also supervising the criminal investigation into whether or not there was interference in the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election.

Watch and read Smith's comments in full

"Today, an indictment was unsealed charging Donald J. Trump with felony violations of our national security laws, as well as participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

"This indictment was voted by a grand jury of citizens in the Southern District of Florida. And I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.

"The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our Armed Forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people.

"Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced.

"Violations of those laws put our country at risk.

"Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle of the Department of Justice, and our nation's commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world.

"We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone. Applying those laws, collecting facts, that's what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more, nothing less.

"The prosecutors in my office are among the most talented and experienced in the Department of Justice. They have investigated this case, hewing to the highest ethical standards and they will continue to do so as this case proceeds.

"It's very important for me to note that the defendants in this case must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

"To that end, my office will seek a speedy trial on this matter consistent with the public interest and the rights of the accused. We very much look forward to presenting our case to a jury of citizens in the Southern District of Florida.

"In conclusion, I would like to thank the dedicated public servants of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with whom my office is conducting this investigation and who worked tirelessly every day upholding the rule of law in our country.

"I'm deeply proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Thank you very much."

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
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