Special Counsel Jack Smith is leading the investigation into classified records found at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, and his team of investigators includes seasoned Justice Department officials, some of whom were involved in the prosecution. of several of the former commanders-in-chief. the boss’s closest allies.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel in November to investigate the entire criminal investigation into the withholding of presidential records, including classified records, found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Smith is a former assistant federal prosecutor and head of the Justice Department’s public integrity section. Before being appointed special prosecutor, Smith has been a prosecutor since 2018 at the International Criminal Court charged with investigating and prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo.
EXCLUSIVE: TRUMP SAYS HE ‘WILL NOT PARTICIPATE’ IN INVESTIGATION OF SPECIAL COUNSEL, THE RIFT AS ‘WORST POLITIZATION OF JUSTICE’
Smith has built a team of experienced Justice Department prosecutors since he was appointed to the role in November.
Fox News has learned that the man leading much of the investigation is attorney Jay Bratt, head of the Export Control and Counterintelligence Section of the Justice Department’s Homeland Security Division.
Bratt was involved in the decision to require former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump White House national security adviser Michael Flynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). FARA requires anyone lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or entity to register their work with the US government.
Manafort ultimately pleaded guilty to committing various financial crimes, including tax fraud and failing to register with FARA in connection with his foreign lobbying on Ukraine’s behalf. Flynn’s FARA violation was related to his dealings with Turkey.
Bratt has also been involved in several cases involving the Espionage Act, which Trump is accused of violating by withholding certain classified records at Mar-a-Lago.
Fox News has also learned that JP Cooney, a career prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, has joined the special counsel team.
Cooney was involved in the prosecution of Republican agent and Trump ally Roger Stone. Stone, in 2020, was found guilty of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements before Congress on charges stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
WHITE HOUSE REFUSES TO SAY IF BIDEN MEETS SPECIAL COUNSEL IN CLASSIFIED RECORDS INVESTIGATION
Cooney and other federal prosecutors recommended a harsh sentence of seven to nine years for Stone only to have Justice Department leaders, specifically then-Attorney General Bill Barr, overturn the prosecutors’ decisions and ask for a lesser sentence.
A federal judge eventually sided with Barr, saying the original sentence was excessive. Stone was determined to serve just over three years. But, just days before he was due to report to prison, Trump signed an executive grant of clemency, commuting the sentence.
FLASHBACK: JUDGE ACKNOWLEDGES DOJ ROGER STONE’S ORIGINAL SENTENCE PROPOSED WAS EXCESSIVE
A presidential pardon completely acquits a person of the crime they are determined to have committed. A commutation reduces the punishment or eliminates jail time but leaves the sentence standing.
Cooney was also involved in the prosecution of Steve Bannon, who served as Trump’s White House chief strategist and senior adviser. Bannon was charged after defying a subpoena by the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
Cooney was also part of the team of prosecutors that determined he would not pursue criminal charges against former FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe after a nearly two-year investigation into allegations brought by the Justice Department’s inspector general in 2018, who found that McCabe he lacked “frankness” when questioned about unauthorized disclosures or leaks to the media.
Also on Smith’s team is Julie Edelstein, deputy director of the Department of Justice’s Export Control and Counterintelligence Section of the Homeland Security Division. Edelstein works with Bratt.
FLASHBACK: DOJ WILL NOT FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST MCCABE
Sophia Brill, a national security appeals attorney, and Brett Reynolds, a trial attorney in the DOJ’s homeland security division who previously served as a trial attorney for the DOJ’s criminal division, are also part of Smith’s team.
It is unclear who else is serving on the special counsel’s team. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
The special counsel team was formed months after an unprecedented FBI raid on the former president’s home. FBI agents seized classified records, including some marked top secret, based on a court order and a property receipt. The Justice Department argues that Trump illegally withheld national defense information at his home.
TRUMP TARGET: A LOOK AT INVESTIGATIONS INVOLVING THE FORMER PRESIDENT; FROM RUSSIA TO SEA-TO-LAKE
The former president and his team continue to dispute the classification and believe that the information and records have been declassified.
Upon his appointment, Smith said he intends to “conduct assigned investigations and any prosecutions that may result from them independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
Trump, who has announced he will run for president in 2024, told Fox News Digital that he will “not be involved” in the “unfair” investigation of Smith, calling it “the worst politicization of justice in our country.”
Trump’s presidency was overshadowed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation, which concluded there was no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
AG GARLAND APPOINTS SPECIAL COUNSEL TO INVESTIGATE TRUMP OVER MAR-A-LAGO DOCUMENTS, JAN. 6
Another special counsel, former federal prosecutor Robert Hur, has been appointed to lead the investigation into President Biden’s improper withholding of classified records.
Classified records were found inside the Washington, DC, offices of the Penn Biden Center think tank and at the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware.
The White House has promised to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.
Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.