Republicans criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday after the Justice Department announced it was appointing former DOJ official Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee investigations into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents and Jan. 6.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., called the timing of the special counsel's appointment problematic given that Trump had just announced his third run for the White House.
Three "days ago, Trump announced and now [there is] a special counsel," said Cruz. "This is Trump derangement syndrome but this time with a gun and badge.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., similarly said that the DOJ appeared to be more "politicized and weaponized" than at any point in American history.
Some, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., even said that Republicans should use their newly won control of the U.S. House of Representatives to cut off funding for the investigation next Congress.
"Republicans will need to refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer-funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee," said Greene.
Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seen as a potential 2024 contender, said the special counsel appointment is "not good news" for the country.
The House Judiciary Committee Republicans tweeted from their account Friday, casting doubt on Smith's ability to remain impartial in his conduct of the investigation.
"Jack Smith and his buddies have been politicizing Washington for AGES. And he's who AG Garland picked to be the special counsel to ‘investigate’ President Trump? Come on," the tweet states.
Some Democrats defended the decision, saying that the unprecedented nature of Trump being a candidate for president mandated the need for a special counsel.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement that he is "confident" that Smith will follow the law and pursue justice in his investigation.
"By appointing well-respected career prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel, Attorney General Garland has demonstrated his commitment to avoiding even the appearance of politicization at the Justice Department," said Durbin. "I am confident that Special Counsel Smith will pursue justice in these investigations without fear or favor, following the facts and the law wherever they lead."
The White House has also pushed back on the GOP criticism, saying Biden was unaware of Garland's decision to appoint a special counsel.
"We were not aware. As you know, the Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigation independently. We are not involved… I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any questions on this. But again, we were not given advance notice. We were not aware of this investigation," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday during a briefing.
Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter.
Smith is also tasked with overseeing the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
"It is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution based on recent developments, including [Trump's] announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president's stated intention to be a candidate as well," said Garland.