Justice Dept to appoint independent prosecutor for Trump probes
US Attorney General Merrick Garland plans to appoint an independent prosecutor on Friday to oversee the criminal investigations into Donald Trump, three days after the former president announced a new run for the White House in 2024.
The move would set up the prospect of a drawn-out legal battle, with Trump likely to claim he is being targeted by the administration of Joe Biden to prevent him winning back the presidency.
The Wall Street Journal and other US media outlets said Garland would hold a press conference Friday afternoon to announce the name of the special counsel, who would determine whether the former Republican president should face any charges.
Trump is the target of multiple Justice Department probes.
He is being investigated for his role in last year's US Capitol attack, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and the stashing of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
In addition, New York state's attorney general Letitia James has filed a civil suit against Trump and three of his children, accusing them of business fraud.
Trump, who says he is a victim of political persecution, has not been charged with any crimes.
But his entry into the White House race on Tuesday makes indicting him a much more delicate matter.
The appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation would serve to help insulate Garland, an appointee of the Democrat Biden, from charges that the probe is politically motivated.
The special counsel would still report to the attorney general, who would have the ultimate say on whether charges should be brought.
Even if charged, Trump can still run for president -- nothing in US law bars a person charged with or convicted of a crime from doing so.
While in office, Trump was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over obstruction of justice and possible election collusion with Russia but no charges were brought against him.
Trump's unusually early announcement that he was running for president again in 2024 was seen by some analysts in Washington as an attempt to stave off potential criminal charges.
The 76-year-old Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in 2019 for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine and again after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters but acquitted by the Senate.
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