October 1, 2023

Jack Smith, the federal prosecutor leading highly sensitive investigations into Donald Trump, is a seasoned American lawyer who has led Kosovo war crimes probes in The Hague.

In November 2022, shortly after Trump announced another White House bid, US Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Smith to oversee two independent investigations into the former president, saying that he had “built a reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor.”

Smith has brought felony charges against Trump in one of those cases, alleging he criminally retained classified documents after leaving office and conspired to obstruct the probe.

Prior to his becoming the face of the fiercely divisive Trump case, Smith spent many years at the Department of Justice and more recently in international tribunals.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Smith began his prosecutorial career in the 1990s.

He boasts a resume that includes several years at the US Department of Justice in multiple positions including chief of the agency’s Public Integrity Section, where he led a team handling corruption and election crimes cases, and later acting United States attorney for the middle district of Tennessee.

From 2008 to 2010 he served as an investigator for the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, where he was charged with supervising sensitive probes of foreign government officials over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

His most high-profile work prior to the Trump probe has occurred at the special court on Kosovo in The Hague, where he led investigations and adjudications of war crimes committed in the Balkan republic during the 1990s wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia.

– ‘Milestone’ –

In 2018 Smith was named chief prosecutor of the court, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers. It opened its first trial last year against former rebel commander Salih Mustafa, who faces charges of murder and torture related to his time at a makeshift jail operated by the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Smith described the case as a “milestone” for the court, whose activities remain highly sensitive given that former rebel commanders still dominate political life in Kosovo.

The court, which operates under Kosovo law but is based in Netherlands to shield witnesses from intimidation, has issued war crimes charges against several senior members of the KLA including Kosovar former president Hashim Thaci, who resigned after being indicted.

Smith presided during Thaci’s first pre-trial appearance before the special court, in 2020, to face charges.

After being appointed special counsel by Garland, Smith pledged to work “independently” and to “move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”

In his first public comments after Trump’s indictment was unsealed, sparking outrage among Republicans, Smith underlined that the United States has “one set of laws… and they apply to everyone.”

“Laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced,” he added.

Smith’s office has yet to reveal any charges in the second probe of Trump, over his involvement in the 2021 storming of the US Capitol by the then-president’s supporters.